Preferred Citation: Warner, William B. Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1998 1998.

5 The Pamela Media Event

The Pamela Media Event

An entire historical tradition (theological or rationalistic) aims at dissolving the singular event into an ideal continuity—as a teleological movement or a natural process. "Effective" history, however, deals with events in terms of their most unique characteristics, their most acute manifestations. An event, consequently, is not a decision, a treaty, a reign, or a battle, but the reversal of a relationship of forces, the usurpation of power, the appropriating of a vocabulary turned against those who had once used it, a feeble domination that poisons itself as it grows lax, the entry of a masked "other."
—Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice

If from a later historical vantage point it is clear that 1740 is when the novel in Britain begins to be a cultural icon worth fighting to define, why does this particular cultural struggle begin then and there? Although my genealogical study of the rise of the novel thesis exposes what is arbitrary about the retroactive interpretation of the rise of the novel, it fails to grasp the obscure necessity of beginning the rise of the novel narrative with Richardson and Fielding. It does not explain why the novels Richardson and Fielding wrote in the 1740s are repeatedly designated, by historians of literary culture for 250 years, as the first real novels in England. How, one might ask, did the programs for a "new species of writing" (Richardson) and a "new province of writing" (Fielding) become the first drafts of the rise of the novel thesis? If we are to recover some of what the rise of the novel narrative effaces—that which is unique and crucial about the event that triggered the novel's elevation in Britain—we must do more than earlier literary histories attempt, and more than my own study has attempted so far. The alternative cultural history of the early novel offered in chapters 2–4 provides the context for understanding the generative power of what I am calling the Pamela media event. Richardson's provocative solution to the issue of how to license reading for entertainment, and the responses it incites, help explain how, in the words of Habermas, "the mediocre Pamela [became] the bestseller of the century" (43). To understand how the cultural location and meaning of novel reading took a decisive turn with the publication of Pamela in November 1740, this chapter focuses on the Pamela


media event. By studying this event it will become clear how in this decade "the novel," as a contradictory and contested cultural monument, first appeared in Britain out of something more diffuse, inchoate and tangled—the vortex of novel reading.

If we are to grasp the anonymous publication of Pamela as the entrance of a masked "other" into the media-culture masquerade in 1740, we need to understand how one book triggers a "media event" with long-term consequences for novel reading in Britain. An event often acquires an enigmatic character from its decisive evanescence: because it appears to have determined the direction of later events, it compels attention; but because it leaves only traces (tracks, memories, or writing) that are partial—that is, both fragmentary and biased—it eludes comprehension and invites a rich elaboration. Chapter 1 comprised a genealogical study of the rise of the novel narrative that challenges just the sort of naturalizing continuity produced by the historiography Foucault decries. Over the course of the unfolding of the rise of the novel thesis, novels are given a plurality of purposes: they are said to improve morals, to catalyze national identity, to represent social or psychological reality, and to become part of "the great tradition." These prescriptions for the novel have the character of "fantasy," inasmuch as fantasy works with "memory" to restore the original essence of the novel; that is, they elaborate, in a progressive movement toward the present, an idealized cultural icon. Freud describes the complex undecidable interplay of fantasy and memory, fiction and reality in the (re-)constitution of a prior event (Warner, Chance and the Text of Experience , 47–55). Here I am suggesting an analogy between what motivates the compulsive return to the primal scenes in dreams and therapy—the unconscious memory of a personal trauma—and the compulsion of literary and cultural history to return to a scene which is partly memory and partly fantasy. When reading for entertainment within print-media culture is experienced as wounding trauma to humanistic reading practices, that trauma is overwritten by a romance of origins (of the novel), wherein it is told that Richardson and Fielding, as the true fathers of the novel in English, performed heroic exploits of aesthetic originality (Campbell, Natural Masques , 2–3; H. Brown, "Why the Story"). But fantasy does not have a "free hand" to work any way it might wish; in this instance, as in the primal scenes Freud theorizes, it works, I argue, upon the memory traces of an actual event, one that has a rigid, contingent character. In this particular case, that event is the Pamela media event, which is the focus of this and the next chapter.[1]

[1] The interplay I here postulate between the memory of a real event and the retroactive work of fantasy distinguishes my approach from other approaches to the where, when, and how of the novel's rise. If traditional accounts are too quick to commit themselves to re-membering particular acts of authorial creation (by, for example, Defoe and Richardson), then two recent revisions of that story, by Homer Brown (Institutions of the English Novel ) and Clifford Siskin ("Eighteenth Century Periodicals and the Romantic Rise of the Novel"), exaggerate the autonomous authority and interpretative voluntarism of acts of retroactive fantasy. Elsewhere in this study I have sought to incorporate Brown's account of the crucial role in the constitution of the eighteenth-century novel played by Walter Scott's editing projects of the second decade of the nineteenth century. Siskin uses the increase in the reading and writing of novels in the last decade of the eighteenth century to argue not an eighteenth-century rise of the novel, but a Romantic one. For Siskin, the novel, as the comfortable form of writing we take it to be, depends upon a global shift from eighteenth-century anxieties about imitation (evident in my accounts of the antinovel discourse) to nineteenth-century accounts of the subject's development into an impossibly deep object of apprehension. Siskin underestimates the way in which Richardson previews a deep subjectivity that is given other articulations, in their later years, by Rousseau, Goethe, and the English Romantics; but both Brown and Siskin underestimate the decisive influence of the debate about novel reading effected by the novelistic productions of Richardson and Fielding in the 1740s. In this chapter I seek to demonstrate precisely what was decisive about the Pamela media event.


On December 13, 1740, Edward Cave, the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine , proclaims the success of Pamela : "[it was] judged in Town as great a sign of want of curiosity not to have read PAMELA, as not to have seen the French and Italian dancers" (Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson , 124). With these words, an important organ of the print media diagnoses a certain lack in the consumer of leisure entertainments: if you have not read Pamela you are without a "curiosity," a deficiency that only the reading of Pamela will repair. Because Cave was a friend of Richardson, there is an element of hype and contrived promotion at the beginning of the Pamela media event. But the extraordinary popularity of Pamela involves more than a transient shift in taste, a mere "vogue"; it is a media event that helps to inaugurate a shift in media practices. But what exactly is a media event? First, such an event is not precipitated by some prior historical event (such as a battle, a trial, or a coronation) which then becomes grist for representations in the media. Instead, it begins with a media production—in this case, the publication of Pamela . Second, the atavistic interest in the media event, as demonstrated by purchases and enthusiastic critical response, feeds upon itself, producing a sense that this media event has become an ambient, pervasive phenomenon which properly compels the attention and opinions of those with a modicum of "curiosity." Finally, this media event triggers repetitions and simulations, and becomes the focus of critical commentary and interpretation.


For a broad spectrum of twentieth-century cultural critics (from Adorno to Baudrillard), the media event, in the sense I am using it, has been seen as a calculated means for the culture industry to raise revenues, replace reality with fantasy, and take consumers from nature into a simulated postmodern world, where all is only representation. For scholars with more sympathy for the forms of popular consumption, the media event is neither unreal nor cynically contrived. I suggest we consider the media event as a type of event rather than a simulation of one, and as such it should be interpreted on two registers: as a symptom of changes working within the avid consumers of the event, and as something that carries genuine effects into culture.[2]

What gives the Pamela media event its force and lasting effects? It is fueled by the struggle around licensing reading pleasure described in previous chapters—most notably by Behn's successful introduction of the novel of amorous intrigue onto the British print market, Manley and Haywood's formulation of fiction within an emerging media culture, and the scandal caused by novel reading for entertainment. The particular order of my consideration of novel writing and the cultural resistance to novels may have obscured the most striking feature of the interaction between novel reading and the antinovel discourse—a certain impasse that results from their increasingly symbiotic relationship. While the increased currency of novels within print-media culture intensifies the antinovel discourse, the novels of Manley and Haywood are not overwhelmed by that discourse; neither does the success of Manley and Haywood's novels prevail over the antinovel discourse. Instead, Manley and Haywood exploit the antinovel discourse by incorporating it into the New Atalantis and Love in Excess . Conversely, when Defoe attempts in Roxana to short-circuit the allure of the novels of amorous intrigue, or when Aubin develops strategies to elevate and reform novel reading, they necessarily repeat elements of the novels they condemn. In other words, over the first decades of the century, novel and antinovel, novels and the antinovel discourse flourish alongside one another. But the Pamela media event breaks through this impasse and brings a decisive change to the culture strife around absorptive novel reading.

This consideration of the Pamela media event is spread over two chapters. This chapter first surveys three related elements of Richardson's

[2] For a contrast between these two approaches to culture, expressed most recently in the work of Mark Crispin Miller and Andrew Ross, see my argument for giving both perspectives weight (Warner, "The Resistance to Popular Culture," 742 n.3). For a wide-ranging historical critique of the modern American marketing of the "pseudo event," see Boorstin, Image .


attempts to reform novel reading: his early promotion of the novels of Penelope Aubin as an alternative to the novels of amorous intrigue; his composition of Pamela as an allegory of the reformed novel reader; and his efforts to foreclose the misreadings of Pamela he anticipates, especially among those addicted to novel reading. This chapter then goes on to describe the diverse responses to Pamela : enthusiastic promotion and antagonistic critique, parodies, sequels, and debates about, for example, whether Pamela allows readers to see too much. It is these responses which make it the focus of a media event. Richardson responds to this evidence of the dangerous autonomy of readers by beginning to position himself as an author. Chapter 6 describes Fielding's complex critique of contemporary entertainment—from the spectacles of the theater of his day to the absorptive reading Richardson's Pamela invites. With his parody Shamela , and Joseph Andrews , his alternative to Pamela , Fielding offers a fundamentally different pathway for licensing entertainment.

The difficulty of controlling how readers read and use texts within the open system of media culture in the 1740s encourages Richardson and Fielding to develop the concept of the novel author as proprietor of the book. By the end of the decade the cultural practices referred to as "reading novels" had been remapped. The ethical program, mimetic coherence, and aesthetic ambition claimed by Richardson and Fielding for their novels were countersigned by many of their early readers, as well as by many early critics after 1750, such as Samuel Johnson in his Rambler no. 4 essay. This positive reception of their novels functioned as a contingent decision in favor of their novels and against the novels of Behn, Manley, and Haywood. The decision is "contingent" because it did not have to happen the way it did. Like the decision in a legal proceeding or sporting event, it establishes a hierarchical relation of one term or agent over another. Thus, in Foucault's words that appear as this chapter's epigraph, the Pamela media event wins "the reversal of a relationship of forces, the usurpation of power, the appropriating of a vocabulary turned against those who had once used it."

The Open System of Media Culture; or, Devising Originals to Copy

Terry Eagleton has usefully suggested that Richardson's novels "are not mere images of conflicts fought out on another terrain, representations of a history which happens elsewhere . . . but instruments which help to constitute social interests rather than lenses which reflect them" (4). Richard-


son's strategy for entering the market for novels, and for giving them the power to do things in culture, develops out of his understanding of the workings of media culture. The print market in which Pamela appears may best be described as an "open" system. By this I do not mean that it is random or chaotic, nor that it is free of constraints. But neither is it a self-regulating totality that sustains some essential character through the sort of homeostasis that is characteristic of, for example, many biological systems. The print market is a system of production and consumption in which no one can control or guarantee the meanings that sweep through its texts. It is open to seismic shifts and dislocations. Lacking centralized censorship or certification, the market is influenced by any who can get their writing printed. Here there are no commonly recognized standards, and remarkably few limits as to what can be said or written. During the eighteenth century, the libel of political writers and the pornography of Cleland and Sade demonstrate some of those limits by testing them. The very openness that allows the novels of Behn, Manley, and Haywood to proliferate within the print market is exploited by the reformers of the novel—such as Defoe, Aubin, Richardson, and Fielding—who wrote in their wake.[3]

In entering media culture, Richardson seems to have learned from, and emulated the strategies of, such precursors as Defoe, Aubin, and Hogarth, who sought to use modern fiction for ethical ends. Because the printing activity on this market is sustained by the profits it produces, success produces its own imperatives. The market orients reformers of the novel toward the novels of Behn, Manley, and Haywood, which offered the dominant prior instance of the sort of popularity and atavistic pleasure that reformers of the novel hoped to mobilize for different ends. If the popular success of novels by Behn, Manley, and Haywood had defined "the novel" as a racy, immoral story of love, Defoe, Aubin, Richardson, and Fielding rearticulate it to produce new effects on readers. The title, preface, and most obvious traits of a novel like Roxana make its proximity to the novels of amorous intrigue very explicit. In their prefaces too, Defoe and Aubin offer their novels as an improving alternative to less ethical entertainments. By contrast, the exchange between the novels of Richardson and Fielding in the 1740s and the novels of amorous intrigue they sought to supplant is obscure and vexed. Neither Richardson nor Fielding offers his writing as

[3] The term "open system" is borrowed from computer terminology, where it designates software and hardware platforms that allow other vendors to develop compatible products without licensing that platform.


another narrative practice to be consumed alongside the novels of Behn, Manley, and Haywood—like different columns on a Chinese menu. Nor do either believe that the earlier, wayward novelistic writing can be subsumed dialectically into their own practice. Instead, by claiming to inaugurate an entirely new species of writing, Richardson asserts the fundamental difference of his project from that of his (notorious) antagonists—Behn, Manley, and Haywood—who continue to circulate in the market as threatening rivals.[4] If Behn's and Haywood's novels flourish, they will drain Richardson's project of its cultural efficacy. This antagonism is most difficult to define because it is an unstable nonrelation between two terms which Richardson has every interest in obscuring. It only becomes graspable from a later analytical perspective.

Against the practice of traditional literary history, which uses the principle of resemblance to designate the precursor texts and authors Richardson might have known and imitated, I find two broad ways in which Richardson rearticulates the print culture he inhabits.[5] First, through his antagonism to the novels of amorous intrigue, which he claims never to have read, but whose influence upon readers he decries, those novels enter his texts. This is less a conscious or unconscious influence than it is something akin to an influenza to which he seeks an antidote. Second, in shaping his intervention, Richardson repeats some of the strategies of those who preceded him in opposing absorptive novel reading, and who developed alternative narrative entertainments with which to improve readers. Like both Defoe and Hogarth, Richardson exploits the allure of the amorous intrigue he would restrain. Like Defoe, Richardson will use the naturalistic situations, ordinary speech, and ethical teleology of spiritual autobiography to establish the moral seriousness of his stories. Like Hogarth, Richardson rejects fashionable entertainments, which he sees as a treacherous model for imitation, yet weaves novelistic plotting into his own text. In Hogarth's Progress Pieces , from The Harlot's Progress through Industry and Idleness , plays, novels, and prints shape the action because Hogarth's characters imitate what they consume. Moll Hackabout,

[4] Behn's novels are frequently reprinted in the first half of the eighteenth century. Mary Ann O'Donnell, for example, lists the following editions for Love Letters : 3rd ed., 1708; 4th ed., 1712; 5th ed., 1718; 6th ed., 1735; serialized in Oxford Journal , 1736; 7th ed., 1759; 8th ed., 1765. In 1725 Haywood publishes a four-volume octavo collection of her novels which is reprinted in 1742.

[5] McKillop's discussion of Pamela in his 1936 book, Richardson: Printer and Novelist , is still the most subtle and thoroughgoing of the treatments of the many possible precursors of Pamela .


the protagonist of the Hatlot's Progress (1732), begins her decline into the streets when she imitates the protagonists of novels by having an affair (plate 2), and accommodates herself to a life of crime by placing a print of the highwayman MacHeath next to her bed (plate 3). In the playful, amorous, erotic prints Before and After (1736), the heroine's succumbing to her admirer suggests that the influence of the volume of "Novels" and the poems of Rochester have prevailed over the other book on her nightstand, "The Practice of Piety." In his prints of the 1730s and 1740s, Hogarth sustains an ambiguity as to whether the many sorts of imitation he represents should be understood as prudential warnings to the unwary or as the intertexts through which readers of greater discrimination may savor the fate of entangled protagonists.[6]

Because Richardson follows Penelope Aubin (1685–1731) in using the positive example to reshape the novel into a vehicle for moral improvement, Aubin's novels function as Richardson's point of entrance into the media culture of novelistic entertainments. While Aubin's use of characters as moral examples appears to be indebted to seventeenth-century French heroic romance, her strategy for improving novels also arises from a consensus within the antinovel discourse. In worrying about the power of novels to induce imitation in their readers, Defoe, Hogarth, Aubin, and Richardson echo the paradox formulated by The Whole Duty of Woman, Or, an infallible Guide to the Fair Sex (1737). In the section "The Duty of Virgins" there are strictures against "the reading romances, which seems now to be thought the peculiar and only becoming Study of young Ladies . . . [because] it is to be feared they often leave ill Impressions behind them. Those amorous Passions, which it is their Design to paint to the utmost Life, are apt to insinuate themselves into their unwary Readers, and by an unhappy Inversion a Copy shall produce an Original." Like Defoe before her and Richardson after her, Aubin accepts the inevitability of reading to divert and amuse (see chapter 4). But to forestall the romances' "insinuating" of "amorous passions" into its readers, to prevent the "unhappy inversion" by which "a copy shall produce an original," Aubin produces exemplary

[6] Hogarth shares many of the goals and practices of the early novelists such as Defoe, Aubin, Richardson, and Fielding: a shrewd analysis of his potential audience, the invention of new hybrid forms (like the Progress Pieces ), and a sustained commitment to elevating the ethical and aesthetic register of the print-media culture. Ronald Paulson has demonstrated some of the two-way influences between Hogarth's projects and those of Richardson and Fielding (see Paulson, Hogarth [3 vols] and Beautiful, Novel and Strange ).


originals for her readers to copy. This use of the exemplary character differentiates her novels from Defoe's and affiliates them with Pamela . Both Aubin and Richardson aim to take the imitation-inducing powers ascribed to absorptive reading within the antinovel discourse and harness them to the cause of virtue.

After the double success in 1719 of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Haywood's Love in Excess , between 1721 and 1728 Penelope Aubin publishes seven novels which turn away from the brisk contemporaneity and explicit sexuality of the novels of amorous intrigue and return to the style and content of exalted virtue of the heroic romances of La Calprenède and de Scudéry (Richetti, Popular Fiction , 218–229). This return to romance lifts her characters out of the ego-centered plots of media culture and gives a nostalgic "retro" feel to her novels. Several motifs of her first novel, The Life of Madam de Beaumount, a French Lady (1721), suggest its indebtedness to heroic romance: the plot is replete with patiently endured trials and miraculous escapes told through a complex narrative scheme which features an anthology of embedded narratives. Belinda, the central heroine, has a magically radiant virtue that the hero, Mr. Luelling, need only see and hear in order to love. When a rival, the noble Mr. Hide, also falls in love with Belinda, and she refuses him, the speech Mr. Hide delivers at his "summer house" articulates one of the touchstones of romance—that one can die of love: "Madam, . . . fear nothing from me, Virtue and Honor are as dear to me as you; since you cannot be mine, I ask no more, but that you'll stay and see me die, and not detest my memory, since vice has no share in my soul" (68).

Three of the programmatic elements of Aubin's novels, when taken together, give them a distinctly English, bourgeois, Protestant cast. First, her narratives are guided by a particularly insistent doctrine of providential rewards, whereby "strange" and wonderful "accidents" guarantee final happiness to the virtuous. Second, she purifies her heroines of the sort of erotic desire so explicitly present in Behn, Manley, and Haywood. Finally, her novels make the heroine's literal physical virginity the indispensable criterion of virtue. When Belinda is rescued from her outlaw captives and returned home, her husband, Mr. Luelling, in an agony of suspense, asks the crucial question: "Alas! my Belinda, may I hope that I shall sleep again within those Arms? Has no vile ravisher usurped my right, and forced you to his hated Bed? . . . tho I believe your mind still pure, and that your soul loathed, and abhorred the damning thought; yet forgive me, if I tremble at the dreadful idea of so cursed an act, and long to know the truth" (128).


Belinda delivers her self-vindication with an indignation worthy of Clarissa.[7]

In 1739, the same year in which Richardson is writing the Familiar Letters and Pamela , Richardson writes the anonymous preface to a posthumous collection of Aubin's seven novels, A Collection of Entertaining Histories and Novels .[8] As a printer who had only written conduct books and who did not as yet consider himself a writer of stories, it seems entirely appropriate that Richardson would join his close associates in the book trade, Arthur Bettesworth, Thomas Longman, and Charles Rivington (one of the booksellers for Pamela and the Familiar Letters ), by actively supporting this new collection (Zach, English Studies , 274; Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson , 43, 90). The preface that Richardson drafts does not only index those traits common to Aubin and Richardson—"purity of style and manners," providential punishments and rewards, and a mixing of diverting incident with improving "reflections"—it also modulates, as Zach notes, between being a critical introduction to the sort of novel Aubin has written and being a proleptic account of the novels Richardson would write.

[7] In the stilted syntax and diction of Clarissa's high style she shows her debt to Aubin and the French heroic romance. Two of Aubin's projects of the 1720s suggest how her elevation of novel writing pivots upon finding moral examples for youth. The first of these is a preface written by Aubin to an expensive folio volume—a hybrid between a conduct book and an emblem book—entitled "Moral Virtue Delineated , in One Hundred and Three short Lectures, both in French and English, on the most important Points of Morality. Each Lecture exemplified with a Copper Plate, done by the Famous Monsieur Daret, Engraver to the late French King. The Design of the said Plates being taken from the celebrated Gallery of Zeno at Athens, Founder of the Stoic Philosophy. The Whole recommended for the Instruction of Youth, especially those of the Highest Quality." The second of these projects is a loose translation published by Aubin in 1727 of a set of novels by the French author Robert Challes entitled "The Illustrious French Lovers; Being the True Histories of the Amours of several French Persons of Quality . In which are contained a great number of excellent examples, and rare and uncommon accidents; showing the polite breeding and gallantry of the gentlemen and ladies of the French nation. Written originally in French, and translated into English by Mrs. P. Aubin."

[8] In "Mrs. Aubin and Richardson's Earliest Literary Manifesto," Wolfgang Zach makes the case for attributing the anonymous preface to Richardson by noting the striking similarities both in style and content between it and Richardson's subsequent defenses of his novels. Zach also notes that Richardson is known to have written anonymous prefaces for booksellers, and that some of the publishers of the collection were close associates of Richardson. This preface offers important evidence of the close affiliation between Richardson and women writers Richetti calls "pious polemicists." Todd (Sign of Angelica ) and Spencer (Rise of the Woman Novelist , 88) note this affiliation, as well as Zach's attribution.


The preface also evidences an antagonism to Aubin's rival female novelists—most especially Eliza Haywood—whom Richardson obliquely critiques but refuses to name. By their practice of "this species of writing," these unnamed novel writers have brought a "disreputation [sic ] on the very name" "Novel." "Like the fallen angels, having lost their own innocence, [they] seem, as one would think by their writings, to make it their study to corrupt the minds of others, and render them as depraved, as miserable, and as lost as themselves." By casting the female novelists as "fallen angels," Richardson confers insidious satanic powers of influence upon them.

Richardson's antagonism toward the novels of amorous intrigue expresses itself in his decision to disassociate his own writing from the very term "novel"—despite delivering praise for Aubin's "good novel(s)" in his 1739 preface. Even so, the term "novel" is still used by the editor of the Weekly Miscellany , William Webster, to describe Pamela in the weeks before its publication; and it is later applied to Pamela and Clarissa by two sympathetic critical allies, William Warburton (in his preface to the second [1748] installment to Clarissa [first edition, volumes 3–4]) and Edward Young (in his 1761 Conjectures ). Little wonder, then, that readers throughout the 1740s will assume, against Richardson's claim that it is an utterly "new species of writing," that Pamela is, after all, a type of novel. Perhaps nothing contributed more to triggering the Pamela media event than Richardson's provocative claim, submitted within the ongoing cultural strife around novel reading, that however much Pamela might resemble a novel, it is not one, and further, that reading it will promote (rather than corrupt) the virtue of the reader.

Pamela : An Allegory of Novel Reading

Pamela recounts how a young girl imbued with prudential paternal warnings and innocent of novel reading nonetheless finds herself within a novel. When her young master indulges in novelistic assumptions about their common situation and pressures her to yield to his desires, she refuses to play the novelistic role of seduced victim. The heroine only escapes her captivity within the novel by deflecting the action through a new kind of writing—the letters with which she records her trials. By educating her antagonist, Mr. B., into being the right sort of reader of her narrative of their common situation, Pamela casts Mr. B. as a reformed novel reader. Through her subordination of Mr. B.'s novelistic scheming to her own ends, Pamela, like Richardson, becomes the author of a new species of morally elevated entertainment.


In order to prevent the insidious circulation of novels, Richardson must teach readers how to read. It is therefore appropriate that Pamela begins with parental alarm and an injunction to read vigilantly. Pamela's parents feel the peril of Mr. B.'s attentions to their daughter, as reported in the novel's first letter, and respond with a letter fraught with suspicion: "I hope the good 'Squire has no Design; but when he has given you so much Money, and speaks so kindly to you, and praises your coming on; and Oh! that fatal Word, that he would be kind to you, if you would do as you should do , almost kills us with Fears" (27). The hermeneutic of suspicion introduced here is directed not only at the squire's behavior and words, but also at her own: "you seem so full of Joy at his Goodness, so taken with his kind Expressions . . . we fear—you should be too grateful,—and reward him with that Jewel, your Virtue, which no Riches, nor Favour, nor any thing in this Life, can make up to you" (27). With these words Pamela receives the parental Law of her social identity: virginity is to be the sine qua non of her being their "dutiful daughter" (the words with which she signs her letters); otherwise, they suggest, she is dead to them. The letter ends with the practical "charge" that she "stand upon [her] Guard" and "if you find the least Attempt made upon your Virtue, be sure you leave every thing behind you, and come away to us" (28). These parental admonitions puncture Pamela's initial pleasure in her master's gifts and attention. Her response reports the change wrought in her: ". . . your Letter has fill'd me with much Trouble. For it has made my Heart, which was overflowing with Gratitude for my young Master's Goodness, suspicious and fearful" (28). Although Pamela's parents' reading lesson is cast within the severe terms of the prudential-guide tradition, the content of its warning is consistent with the injunction given her by Mr. B.'s blunt sister, Lady Davers: "[you are] a very pretty wench [so] . . . take care to keep the fellows at a distance" (29). The advice of both parties warns about that action—seduction of the beautiful and unwary—so common in the novels of amorous intrigue.

What is the effect of these warnings? Pamela's suspicions, once they take root, are like the conscious blush of modest virtue: they imply a knowledge of the immodest facts she hopes to ward off. Pamela's reading lesson is also ours: from here on, we as readers must read through Pamela, her language, and her avowals. We must wonder what Pamela knows and wants. Why is she so willing to stay after his first attacks in order to finish Mr. B.'s "waistcoat"? Why is she so angry at Mr. B.'s proposal of Parson Williams as a suitable match? (86, 129–134) These episodes invite readers to suspect that Pamela harbors an unconscious love for Mr. B. While intended to protect Pamela from the wrong sorts of novelistic desire and


knowledge, her reading lesson vitiates the original innocence the story postulates for her.

Richardson's antagonism toward novels is expressed in the assumption, woven through the early pages of Pamela , that Pamela's sexual innocence and her innocence of novel reading are of a piece. However, Pamela is said to be "a great reader" (26, 37), and her behavior suggests that she has learned practical lessons from novelistic fictions: she learns of virtuous resistance in the story of Lucretia (40–42); of great men stooping below their rank in marriage (49); "that many a Man has been asham'd at a Repulse, that never would, had they succeeded" (50); and of the captain who escapes from his pursuers by throwing clothes in the water (149). In short, Pamela has absorbed a good deal of novelistic wisdom about gender strife and the way in which resistance increases desire.

Pamela's first-person narrative does not allow us to understand what provokes Mr. B.'s sudden attempts on the heroine (Roussel, Conversation of the Sexes , 73–75). One may speculate that the spark comes from the suspicions of himself he reads in Pamela's correspondence. Described by the editor as a "Gentleman of Pleasure and Intrigue" (89), Mr. B. is told of Pamela's "virtue" and "innocence," but develops his own suspicions about his servant. When his housekeeper, Mrs. Jervis, uses these words to describe Pamela, he speculates on her true nature and motives: "Innocent! again; and virtuous , I warrant! Well, Mrs. Jervis , you abound with your Epithets; but 'tis my Opinion, she is an artful young Baggage; and had I a young handsome Butler or Steward, she'd soon make her Market of one of them, if she thought it worth while to snap at him for a Husband" (39). Like the libertines in the novels of amorous intrigue, Mr. B. assumes that everyone maximizes advantage and pleasure at the expense of others. When he counters her resistance by saying "we shall make out between us, before we have done, a pretty story in romance" (42), there is more than jocular irony in this retort. These words offer a quite explicit statement of his intention to compose an action—her seduction—that will make Pamela a victim in a novel of his own design. Mr. B. even interprets Pamela's resistance to his advances through the prism of novelistic fiction. Thus, in his letter to Goodman Andrews, he attributes Pamela's sudden removal from Bedfordshire not to his plotting but to her novel reading: "the Girl's Head's turn'd by Romances . . . And she assumes such Airs . . . and believ'd every body had a Design upon her" (90).

With the summerhouse assault, Mr. B. attempts to take compositional control of the action. He deploys all the machinery used by the libertines in novels to bend the action to their will: forged letters, disguise, unprinci-


pled servants, sudden nighttime assaults, the lure of love, and the promise of money. Following the rhythm of an agon, Mr. B.'s assaults and Pamela's resistance increase in intensity, from the initial Bedfordshire attacks, through the kiss Mr. B. wins from Pamela while she is disguised in her country dress, to the first bedroom assault, Pamela's abduction and captivity in Lincolnshire, the articles offering her the position as a "vile kept mistress," and Mr. B.'s second nighttime attack disguised as Nan. Pamela's resistance produces the melodramatic scenes that have their antecedents in the novels of amorous intrigue. Her tenacious refusals, grounded in her observance of her father's law against self-enjoyment, block narrative closure.

Pamela counters Mr. B.'s designs partly through recourse to the counterplots of the type used or threatened in novels of amorous intrigue: corresponding secretly with Chaplain Williams, attempting to escape but failing, and feigning suicide. But more crucially, she fights back also by developing an alternative interpretation and narrative; her being woven into the plot of Mr. B.'s novel is presented, through recourse to Biblical typology, as a form of captivity that tests faith and virtue (Burnham, "Between England and America"). She incorporates this narrative interpretation into the letter journal she keeps after her abduction. The very aspect of B's Lincolnshire estate bespeaks its protogothic peril to the heroine: "this handsome, large, old, and lonely Mansion, that looks made for Solitude and Mischief, as I thought, by its Appearance, with all its brown nodding horrors of lofty Elms and Pines about it . . ." (102). In this place, Pamela finds herself transported still deeper into the labyrinth of a novel of amorous intrigue. Thus she is carried from the civility of the motherly and practical Mrs. Jervis to the arbitrary brutality of the bawdy Jewkes; from community support to the isolation of captivity; from everyday reality to a sexualized fantasy; from the normal to the exaggerated; from outer to inner; from the social to the psychological. In Lincolnshire, things become eroticized, menacing, fanciful, and extreme.

Because Pamela is increasingly confused by herself and her world, the reliability of her narrative in Lincolnshire becomes compromised. In one episode, which describes her failure to take advantage of a fine opportunity for escape, Pamela's antagonists take the form of two bulls. Her narrative describes an odd metamorphosis:

O how terrible every thing appears to me! I had got twice as far again, as I was before, out of the Back-door; and I looked, and saw the Bull, as I thought, between me and the Door; and another Bull coming towards me the other way: Well, thought I, here is double Witchcraft, to be sure! Here


is the Spirit of my Master in one Bull; and Mrs. Jewkes's in the other; and now I am gone, to be sure! O help! cry'd I, like a Fool, and run back to the Door, as swift as if I flew. When I had got the Door in my Hand, I ventur'd to look back, to see if these supposed Bulls were coming; and I saw they were only two poor Cows, a grazing in distant Places, that my Fears had made all this Rout about. [137]

When "two poor Cows" appear as bulls—emblems of erotic aggression—then Pamela's own fearful fantasy of sexual danger lends support to Mr. B.'s plot and takes her deeper into the novel she strives to escape.

How are Pamela and Mr. B. to escape the novel that programs the terms of their exchanges? After Mr. B. arrives in Lincolnshire, a perverse chiasmic pattern overtakes the relations between him and Pamela: every time Mr. B allows himself or Pamela allows herself to become vulnerable to the other, the other draws back. These nuanced but emotionally fraught exchanges, often celebrated within the critical tradition for their insight into the psychology of love, show not only that, in Pamela's words, "love borders so much upon hate" (59), but also that the social problem confronting the would-be lovers has a generic ground. How can Mr. B and Pamela break out of a compulsive repetition of the scenarios scripted by the novels of amorous intrigue, with their zero-sum game of the battle of the sexes, with every representation of their relationship under suspicion of being nothing more than a ploy motivated by self-interest? The staying power of the novelistic codes that structure their exchanges can be grasped by examining the impasse that develops following Mr. B.'s final physical assault on Pamela, when the young couple converse by the Lincolnshire pond and begin to modulate their relationship toward the mutuality of an equal love (184–186).

In this scene their different relation to a scenario of novelistic seduction makes each unwilling to trust the other. To schematize, Pamela's defensive posture—what one might call her vigilant modesty—leads her to suspect every favorable gesture as concealing dangerous new ruses; thus, Mr. B.'s expressions of love may conceal "criminal" desires and evidence an attempt to "melt" her with "kindness" (186). In a complementary fashion, the libertine autonomy and class independence that had justified Mr. B. in composing a novelistic plot to undo Pamela now becomes articulated as a jealous indignation that Pamela's counterplots led her to solicit the aid of Chaplain Williams (186). Wavering between asserting his authority as author of a novelistic scenario and collaborating with Pamela in another kind of plot, Mr. B. feels an increase in his passion for Pamela and an intensification of the enigma she has become to him. Her beautiful surfaces might, paradoxically, conceal dangerous tricks: "See, said he, and took the


Glass with one Hand, and turn'd me round with the other, What a Shape! what a Neck! what a Hand! and what Bloom in that lovely Face!—But who can describe the Tricks and Artifices, that lie lurking in her little, plotting, guileful Heart!" (162)

The solution to this impasse is not available from within the terms of the novels of amorous intrigue. From within that genre, Pamela's performances, and the tension between her claim to simplicity and her more ambiguously desiring behavior, continue to produce doubts about her both within the novel (in Lady Davers) and, as is made clear below, outside it (in Fielding, Haywood, and the anti-pamelists). The solution to the enigma that Pamela has become depends on her withdrawal from Mr. B.'s presence, and on his reading her letters. This displacement of attention entails a sublimation of Mr. B.'s archaic desire to possess her body into the pleasure of reading her letters; such a displacement can usher in the change that Nancy Armstrong places at the center of her influential reading of Pamela : Mr. B. learns to love Pamela not as an "object of desire" but for her "female sensibility" (Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction , 117). The success of this sublimation and displacement of the object of desire depends upon the "realist effect" produced by the detouring of Pamela's correspondence away from its intended destination—her parents—and toward Mr. B. When read by him, Pamela's journal letter to her parents produces for him the "truth effect" of knowing what is inside the envelope, inside Pamela's clothes, and inside all the disguises of the social: the letter of the heart. But her letters can only deliver their message of authentic, rather than performed, virtue if they are overheard, or intercepted, on their way to the parental superego. It is this detouring of the letter/novel that enables a new kind of (non-)novel reading, whose purpose is not merely to entertain, but to repeat a self-evident virtue.

Within this reform of reading, Mr. B.'s absorptive pleasure depends upon his experiencing Pamela's journal as a kind of novel: "I long to see the Particulars of your Plot, and your Disappointment, where your Papers leave off. For you have so beautiful a manner, that it is partly that, and partly my Love for you, that has made me desirous of reading all you write . . ." (201). Mr. B.'s ethical reform does not pivot upon reading Pamela's writing—after all, he has been reading her letters secretly from the beginning. Nor does it merely depend upon a renunciation of his desire for her body in favor of an enlightened passion for her mind. Instead, Mr. B.'s reform pivots upon his turning away from the Hobbesean war of all against all implicit in the novels of amorous intrigue, and, instead, enthusiastically embracing Pamela's journal as a new type of fiction. Through his avid absorption in Pamela's


narrative, and his countersigning of its truth and value, he represents the reformed novel reader outside the text who accepts Pamela as an elevated and improving antinovel. Because it teaches him to love her "with a purer Flame than ever I knew in my whole Life!" (228), her journal becomes his bedside "Entertainment" (254) and incites the curiosity of unreformed readers like Lady Davers (374). However, turning Pamela's letters into entertainment for Mr. B. and others also menaces their "truth effect." If this detoured correspondence became an established communication circuit, it would mean Pamela could no longer, as she warns in handing over a packet of letters, "write so free, nor with any Face, what must be for your Perusal" (208). To avoid the reality of virtue being contaminated by the rhetorically motivated performance of virtue written directly for Mr. B., Pamela must assume, or pretend to believe, that each packet of letters or journal entries she gives him is to be the last he will read.

Pamela in Disguise; or, the Novel of Amorous Intrigue Appears Beneath its Overwriting

Pamela 's intertexts—the conduct-book guide tradition and the novel of amorous intrigue—lead in two utterly unacceptable directions for the action. The novels of amorous intrigue suggest the first bad result—that Pamela will be seduced into an affair with Mr. B. At the same time, the conduct book that Richardson interrupts writing in order to compose Pamela —the Familiar Letters —suggests a result that is no less unacceptable to successful narrative closure: that Pamela will see the threat of Mr. B.'s schemes and will return to her father's house.[9] Such a result would obey the literal injunction of letter 2 of Pamela , as well as the advice tendered by a father in letter 138 of the Familiar Letters , that is immediately followed in letter 139 with his dutiful daughter's announcement that she has "this day left the house" and is returning home as instructed (165). In order to achieve a rewriting both of novels of amorous intrigue and of conduct discourse, within the new hybrid text of Pamela narrative action must steer its characters between the Scylla of virtuous withdrawal and the Charybdis of compliant seduction.

[9] According to Eaves and Kimpel, Richardson starts the Familiar Letters in September or October 1739, and interrupts them to write Pamela between November 10, 1739 and January 10, 1740 (Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson , 88–90). Presumably the preface to Aubin's Collected Novels dates from earlier in 1739 or even from 1738.


What takes Pamela and Mr. B. past the danger of an early short circuit of their story? Nothing within the text appears more crucial than the disguise scene, in which Pamela, the woman who claims not to have read novels, acts like a heroine from one by appearing incognito in her country dress. Here is the first episode of the novel in which Pamela becomes ambiguously complicit with the codes of love, disguise, and manipulation fundamental to the novels of amorous intrigue. Up to that scene, Pamela's story could have ended in virtuous withdrawal, but after that scene, in which Mr. B. wins a kiss from her, Mr. B.'s desire is triggered and he develops the Lincolnshire plot. But beyond its effect upon Mr. B., the scene offers a performance in excess of Pamela's intended meaning.

This disguise scene suggests how Richardson seeks to overwrite the novels of Behn, Manley, and Haywood. From the vantage point of his conscious project to elevate novel reading, such an overwriting means writing above and beyond them, toward higher cultural purposes. But overwriting the earlier novel involves a paradoxical double relation: the earlier novel becomes both an intertextual support and that which is to be superseded, that which is repeated as well as revised, invoked as it is effaced. Thus the elevation of novel reading is founded in an antagonistic, but never acknowledged, intertextual exchange with the earlier novel. This concept of overwriting offers the possibility of reading against the grain of earlier literary histories.

To interpret the unacknowledged exchanges working between a text like Pamela and the network of entertainments within which it circulates, it is necessary to reverse the procedures of the sort of literary history that goes back to earlier noncanonical texts to find the sources for canonical texts. Thus I am not reading the novels of Behn, Manley, and Haywood, or those of Penelope Aubin, Elizabeth Rowe, and Jane Barker, in hopes of finding the closest possible resemblance to the stories, characters, or ethos of Richardson's novel.[10] Such an assemblage of single sources, supposed to operate as influences upon the author of the privileged text, fails to develop a general profile of those antithetical novels circulating as media culture for readers before 1740. Nor will I be focusing on the intertextual networks of explicit allusion subservient to the conscious intentions of the author evident, for example, in Fielding's announcement on the title page of Joseph Andrews that the "history" is written in "the manner of Cervantes."

[10] This kind of strategy is pursued most convincingly for Richardson's Pamela by McKillop (Samuel Richardson ) and Doody (Natural Passion ), in their chapters devoted to literary and cultural backgrounds of the novel.


To read the general cultural antagonism between Richardson and the novelists he hopes to displace, it is more fruitful to begin with the rather perverse question, "Where does one find a character who could not be more different from Pamela?" Although there are many plausible candidates, my choice is the erotically inventive central character of Eliza Haywood's Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze (1725). By reading a scene of Richardson's novel alongside one of Eliza Haywood's, an alternative can be developed to conventional studies of the "influence" of one text or writer upon the author of another. Richardson does not have to have read Haywood, and even less does he have to allude to her, in order to have his text receive the shaping force of the "influenza" of her popularity.

The following is a summary of Fantomina's story: Fascinated with the erotic freedom of prostitutes at the theater, Fantomina exchanges her upperclass dress for the garb of these ladies. When she is approached by the charming Beauplaisir, one who has long admired her but has always been in awe of her reputation, she decides to follow the dictates of her own passion, and indulges his solicitations. Through a gradually escalating series of half-steps she loses her virtue and finds herself entangled in a secret affair with him. When his desire for her begins to languish she contrives an original solution: by changing her dress, hair color, accent, and manner, she transforms herself into a series of erotic objects to engage Beauplaisir's fascination: Celia, the "rude" "country lass" who serves as the maid in his guest house in Bath; Mrs. Bloomer, the charming widow in distress, who begs his assistance on the road back to London from Bath, and finally, that upperclass enchantress called Incognita, who carries him through an erotic encounter in her London apartments, while staying masked and anonymous. This chain of Fantomina's performances is brought to an abrupt and punitive close with the sudden return of Fantomina's mother, and the discovery that the heroine is pregnant.

If, as I am suggesting, Pamela incorporates and displaces many of the narrative and thematic elements found in Fantomina , near the end of Pamela's tenure as a servant in Mr. B.'s Bedfordshire estate there is a scene that provides one of Richardson's strongest grafts to the novels of amorous intrigue. This disguise scene is at once similar to and the opposite of parallel scenes in Haywood's novel. In preparation for her return to her father's modest home, Pamela has "tricked" herself out in "homespun" country clothes. This metamorphosis from the silks she had been wearing is so striking that the housekeeper, Mrs. Jervis, doesn't recognize Pamela when she appears in her new outfit. Mrs. Jervis prevails upon Pamela to be introduced anonymously to Mr. B., who calculatedly (Pamela thinks) uses the chance


to kiss her. Pamela narrates: "He came up to me, and took me by the Hand, and said, Whose pretty Maiden are you?—I dare say you are Pamela 's Sister, you are so like her. So neat, so clean, so pretty! . . . I would not be so free with your Sister , you may believe; but I must kiss you " (61). This provokes Pamela's emphatic assertion of her true identity. After her escape she is called back to receive Mr. B.'s accusation that she had changed her clothes by design, for, since he had recently resolved to give Pamela no more "notice," now "you must disguise yourself, to attract me." She offers this defense: "I have put on no Disguise. . . . I have been in Disguise indeed ever since my good Lady, your Mother, took me from my poor Parents" (62). After Pamela leaves the room, a servant overhears Mr. B. say, "By G———I will have her!" (64) As noted earlier, this disguise scene has decisive consequences: following it, Mr. B. becomes the active promoter of the novelistic coordinates of the action.[11]

Pamela redirects the resources for fantasy and pleasure working in such a novel as Fantomina . In both stories the heroine's disguise functions in the same way—it stimulates a male desire that is in danger of fading, and carries the narrative forward to a new phase. Both a transformation of life and a romantic plasticity of the self are initiated by the heroine's artistry in changing her dress. By putting this empowering fantasy into practice, Fantomina can control the desire that would control her: by appearing as a succession of beautiful women, she fulfills an impossible male demand for variety; by tricking the male gaze that would fix her, she cures that gaze of its tendency to rove; by taking control of the whole mise-en-scène of the courtship scenario, Fantomina directs the spectacle of courtship that would subject her. In all these ways, Fantomina achieves a temporary reprieve from the courtship system described by Backscheider as a discursive system that positions women as subject to judgment, always in danger of becoming grotesque, and threatened with the loss of love (Backscheider, Spectacular Politics , 140–145). But the critique of courtship in Fantomina encounters its limit when Fantomina's mother investigates her pregnancy and closes down the spaces for erotic play by imposing harsh measures—a secret lying-in, and retirement to a convent.

Earlier in this study, I noted the instrumental advantages that accrue to Silvia and Roxana as a result of their recourse to disguise. Most crucially, it enables them to move through the social as a masquerade, maximizing

[11] Throughout this discussion, I am indebted to Tassie Gwilliam's argument that a recourse to disguise is a necessary element of Pamela and its reception. See Gwilliam, Samuel Richardson's Fictions of Gender , 31–36.


their pleasure and freedom, and temporarily eluding legal or moral constraints. Behn and Defoe also make metamorphosis effected through disguise fascinating in itself, a species of feminine magic. Today's women's magazines continue to underwrite the magic of the "makeover." By adding exercise, diet, and plastic surgery to the age-old resources of clothes and cosmetics, these magazines offer medico-scientific support to the notion that the most ordinary girl could be a Cinderella. In contrast to Roxana and Fantomina , in Pamela , Richardson incorporates an explicit critique of disguise. Thus, Pamela represents the heroine's makeover as a complex double movement: a descent in class signifies an elevation in virtue. However, from the moment Pamela tries on her outfit in her bedroom, her pleasure in her new appearance is presented in a risky and morally equivocal light: looking in "the Glass, as proud as any thing . . . I never lik'd myself so well in my Life" (60). Pamela's conduct-book self-assessment of her impending social decline ("O the Pleasure of descending with Ease, Innocence and Resignation!" [60]) is qualified by the way in which the scene echoes the narcissism of Eve looking in the pool in Milton's Paradise Lost , and of Belinda's "rites of pride" before her mirror in Pope's Rape of the Lock . Pamela's complicity in acquiescing to the masquerade staged by Mrs. Jervis—Pamela admits "it looks too free in me, and to him"—means she must submit to the kiss which she does not consciously seek. But what starts out as the naive frolicking of the teenage heroine, through the intensity of Mr. B.'s desire turns into the violence of his accusations. Instead of reading Pamela's change of clothes as a sign of virtuous resignation, Mr. B. reads it as evidence of her intriguing designs upon him. Pamela's defensive insistence that her new dress is her truest clothing, while her recent dress was a kind of disguise, does not ensure that her clothes can be read as reliable signs. Instead, her clothes and manner, just like her letter writing, appear as instruments for dressing across and between classes, and therefore carry an uncontrollable plurality of meanings.

How does Pamela find herself in the ethically risky position of masquerading as herself? In order for Pamela to function as an alternative to novels, Richardson seeks to produce the absorption ascribed to novels. To absorb his readers, Richardson has his heroine emulate the disguised heroines of the novels by performing her virtue before unreformed "readers" like her master. Pamela and Richardson, as composers of textual meaning, must therefore pull off the kind of performance of which Pamela's disguised appearance in her country dress offers more than an instance; her disguise in fact epitomizes the fundamental communicative posture of Richardson's text. In this scene, the novels of amorous intrigue take on a


life of their own in the text of Pamela , suggesting that they have not been fully assimilated to the elevated novel, but instead are incorporated in such a way as to circulate like parasitical foreign bodies within Pamela . Richardson's "new species of writing" becomes their host.

A certain errancy of communication is programmed into the disguise scene the moment Pamela allows herself to be introduced by Mrs. Jervis to Mr. B. as someone other than herself. Pamela's performance, by manipulating her appearance, produces an effect of disguise, and stimulates questions about the deeper meaning of this arresting spectacle. Thus the tendentious surmises that Mr. B. directs at Pamela: "I was resolved never to honour your Unworthiness, said he, with so much Notice again; and so you must disguise yourself, to attract me, and yet pretend, like an Hypocrite as you are—" (62). By interpreting Pamela's dress as a contrived disguise, he plots her into his novel. But his response results from at least two general aspects of her aestheticized self-presentation. First, because of the way in which a performance seems to be furnished for the spectator's gaze, it mobilizes the sense of being personally addressed. Second, because of the way in which disguise foregrounds the difference between what someone appears to be and what they actually are, it stirs spectator curiosity to know the face behind the mask. This curiosity may issue in fascination, anger, or desire—and Pamela's disguise provokes all three in Mr. B. His responses suggest that a disguised performance incites a wish to understand why the performer has chosen this particular performance out of all that might have been performed, in order to fathom the truth supposed to subsist behind disguise.

In developing a justification for her performance, Pamela finds herself caught up in an uncontrollable interplay between a performance space of surface appearances which bear a plurality of possible meanings and an inner space for the articulation of intended meanings claimed to be both temporally and ethically prior to the spaces of reception. The "disguise scene" suggests the impossibility of securing that interior place of original intention—her self as—radically prior to, and unaffected by, the plural social contexts for performance. In both letter writing and performance, meaning cannot be controlled from the position of the performer or letter writer. The wavering of meaning does not merely result from the vagaries of human psychology or the plurality of interests that could be ascribed to a reader. Both of these could be seen as extrinsic to an original intended meaning. Richardson's letter-novel and performances are not put at risk of misreading by something that comes along after writing and publication. Rather, there is something in the very structure of both the system of early modern entertainment wherein the letter-novel Pamela is composed and


circulates and the space that opens around Pamela's performance of her virtue that produces meanings that disrupt claims to an interior univocal meaning. In both letter writing and performance, a slippage necessarily will open between the initial mark or performance and its cultural articulation and social reception.

The detours of communications complicate that aspect of the disguise scene that offers the straightest line to the ethical conduct-book agenda of Richardson's novel—Pamela's presentation of self. When Pamela says, "O Sir, said I, I am Pamela , indeed I am: Indeed I am Pamela, her own self! " (61), the very repetition of the first-person pronoun, the double chiasmic assertion, the intensifiers "indeed, indeed," the emphasis and overemphasis of this circular enunciation of identity betray the difficulty of stabilizing identity. The precariousness of this incipient self, and the virtue ascribed to it, result from the fundamental features of the communication system within which both character and author function. Richardson's program for elevating novel reading is founded upon an instrumental subordination of envelope to letter, form to content, mask or surface to deep self. This program is committed to an idealization of the signified as the true meaning inside (that is, in the inmost recesses of the heart). Such a program depends upon a refusal to recognize that any communication that happens—whether "true" or "false," "deep" or "shallow," authorized or perverse, conscious or unconscious—is an effect of the whole communication system, with its series of differential relays. And because each relay modifies the sites and context of reading, it modifies the message sent along its network. There is no way to separate the initial mark, with its promise of identity and semantic closure, from its relation to something nonsemantic, the place(s) of its marking, as well as its relation to a series of other marks which can never be totalized or brought to a final destination.[12] For this reason

[12] See Gasché, Tain of the Mirror , 217–223; in The Post Card , Jacques Derrida shows how the bipartite structure of the letter and envelope suggests what unsettles the communication ideal that the postal code attempts to institutionalize. Because of the numberless ways in which letters fail to arrive at their destination—from errors in address to the death of the addressee, from sloppy handwriting to the ineptitude of the carrier—any letter could end up in the "dead letter office." Because the possibility of errancy is built into the postal system, Derrida argues that this system exposes a necessary gap between an initial inscription of meaning and its final reading by the addressee. In composing an emission, the writer aspires to send the full meaning written into the letter to the addressee, so that it will be read properly, the way it was intended. But because its full meaning is never received as intended, because an excess of meanings crowd into every inscribed mark, because every re-location of a sign produces a certain minimal dis-location of meaning, the ideal of communicative transparency is shadowed by opacity, ambiguity, and deviation. Derrida formulates these insights into a "postal principle" said to subtend all communication—namely, "the letter never arrives at its proper destination."


there is no way to limit the plural and unexpected reserves of the mediaculture system for producing and disseminating meaning. It is precisely because it is set in motion by someone who strives so hard to get his message to its proper destination that the Pamela media event is an especially rich matrix for reading the perversely plural effects of communication.

It should be apparent that the three distinct forms of communication I have been discussing share a common dynamic. In order to be read properly, Pamela's letters, her disguise, and Richardson's letter-novel all must risk being misread. Thus, only by being read by the skeptical eye of Mr. B. can Pamela's detoured correspondence produce its truth effect; to become the heroine of an antinovel, Pamela must represent her virtue as if in disguise; to write an alternative to novels, Richardson must write the story of virtue's reward so it reads like a novel. In sum, to change novel reading, Pamela must travel the discourse network and reading practices of the media culture of the early novel of amorous intrigue (of seriality, entertainment, and absorptive reading), but for this very reason, the letter-novel may receive a kind of textual interference from the novels of amorous intrigue and lose its way. If this happens, Pamela 's account of the rewards of virtue may be read with the same skepticism Mr. B. directs at the heroine in the disguise scene.[13]

[13] It will be useful to suggest how my reading of Pamela differs from Nancy Armstrong's. A short summary of Armstrong's thesis, put forward in Desire and Domestic Fiction , suggests why she does not view Richardson's novel as a site of dubious performance and ambiguous communication. For Armstrong, the invention of the "domestic woman" within the languages of the fiction and conduct books of the eighteenth century split the social world into masculine and feminine spheres of poetry and prose, politics and home, outside and inside, public and personal, state and family. This change focused desire and value so that the person's worth was internalized and psychologized. The invention of the modern subject gradually achieved cultural and social hegemony, and in so doing, occulted the political power that subject expressed. Armstrong places Pamela at the beginning of this momentous reconfiguration of subjectivity and politics. In the disguise scene, Armstrong finds that "Richardson creates a distinction between the Pamela Mr. B desires and the female who exists prior to becoming this object of desire" (116). "As it provides occasion for [Pamela] to resist Mr. B's attempts to possess her body, seduction becomes the means to dislocate female identity from the body and to define it as a metaphysical object" (116–117). The central turn of the plot—the displacement of Mr. B.'s desire from Pamela's body to her letters—defines her deep subjectivity as the locus of Mr. B.'s desire, while conferring upon a woman's writing the "power to reform the male of the dominant class" (120). I find two fundamental problems with this reading.

First, Armstrong fails to see the way in which the performative underpinnings of Pamela's virtue, and of Mr. B.'s reform, put in question the resolution of the mind/body dualism. Armstrong's reading stays close to the unctuous terms Mr. B. uses to celebrate his reform. "Sir, said Mr. Brooks , . . . You have a most accomplished Lady, I do assure you, as well in her Behaviour and Wit, as in her Person, call her what you please." "Why, my dear Friend, . . . I must tell you, That her Person made me her Lover; but her Mind made her my Wife" (389–390). By accepting the terms of Mr. B.'s reform, Armstrong countersigns the opposition between body and mind that Pamela's own performance has put in play, and Armstrong underestimates the extent to which Mr. B.'s act of reading and acceptance of Pamela's performance is itself a kind of writing. In challenging Armstrong, Gwilliam has argued that the "presumably beneficial change, and Armstrong's depiction of it, depend on the same metaphors—the body as surface and the soul or metaphysical self as depths— . . . that are used elsewhere to posit a disfiguring fault in the female subject. In fact, the finding of value in 'inner' qualities does not transform existing ideologies of femininity as much as it reinscribes them" (17). Gwilliam suggests how the body in Richardson and elsewhere continues to circulate as divided and complex. Similarly, in "Novel Panic," James Turner has argued that Pamela , against its avowed program, provokes strenuous efforts (in criticism, opera, and painting) to visualize and embody Pamela's body. In short, by crediting the idea that this sort of novel invents a new kind of subjectivity, Armstrong's reading of Pamela , like other rise of the novel readings of the text, thereby also extends too much credit to the claims made by Mr. B. (and Richardson) for Pamela's interiority, for her virtue, and for the novelty of her novelistic narrative.
The second problem with this reading, deeply indebted as it is to Foucault's account of the working of the panopticon in Discipline and Punish , is that Armstrong argues that Pamela's domestic subjectivity evolves out of surveillance—both by others and by her own self—that becomes internalized in her writing, especially after her abduction to the Lincolnshire estate. Armstrong's grand narrative of the middle-class invention of the domestic woman orients every aspect of the novel toward the "big" and abstract question of power. An evaluative and analytical hierarchy at work in Armstrong's text abstracts and simplifies the operation of letters, performance, and desire so as to subordinate them to power, the political, and class struggle. This hierarchy justifies postulating a transparent instrumental relationship between text, author, and potential readers. The invention of the desirable domestic self—as a "metaphysical object" that appears to go beyond the political—becomes Pamela's fictive task, Richardson's authorial strategy, and their decisive contribution to the transformation of culture. This critical narrative has the effect of making the culture and its texts a homogenized and totalized space, a perfectly efficient medium of communication, where the idea of the domestic woman, once produced, circulates freely and without significant resistance. The effective transparency of communication claimed by Armstrong for Pamela corresponds much more to what Richardson dreamed for his novel than to what he in fact effected.

Because Armstrong's reading spatializes the temporality of Pamela's narrative, she cannot take account of the way in which Richardson's novel is like both Pamela's letters and her performances: all are communication acts that can misfire, or fail to arrive at their proper destination. For a fuller discussion of these issues, see Warner, "Social Power and the Eighteenth-Century Novel."


Promoting Pamela

By interpreting Pamela as the first literary novel, twentieth-century critics downplay the significance of Richardson's consultation with his readers, the Pamela ad campaign, and Richardson's didacticism. These are the


acts not of an author or novelist, but of a print-media worker attempting to intervene in media culture and change novel consumption practices. To do this, Richardson first has to gauge the response of ethically trusted readers; next, he has to persuade readers to take Pamela as something essentially different from the novels they knew; and finally, he has to persuade readers that reading Pamela is good for them. But in order to lure readers into this reformed reading, all of this has to be pulled off with a calculated indirection.

To reform novel reading, Richardson engages what Madeleine Kahn calls "narrative transvestism," hiding himself behind an alluring story of a sexually embattled fifteen-year-old girl. Because he has never claimed to be anything so exalted as an author, but instead has assumed the disguise of an anonymous editor, Richardson can recede from view and offer readers a narrative in the letters of another. The indirectness of Richardson's engagement of his reader is a correlative of the immediacy promised for Pamela's letters; the alluring beauties of the latter can screen the shy awkwardness of the former. Richardson is even coy about coming out as the writer of Pamela to his friend and literary advisor, Aaron Hill: a month after its publication and apparent success, Richardson sends a copy of the novel to Hill and his two daughters, and on December 17, 1740, Hill sends Richardson a letter of lavish praise: "Who could have dreamt, he should find, under the modest Disguise of a novel, all the soul of religion, good-breeding, discretion, good-nature, wit, fancy, . . . of the wonderful author of Pamela,—Pray, Who is he, Dear Sir? and where, and how, has he been able to hide, hitherto, such an encircling and all-mastering Spirit?" (Letter quoted in Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson , 119–120.) After the success of Pamela is evident, and after he has sent the anonymously published work to an esteemed friend, Richardson finds himself addressed as the disguised author of a book that appears in the "modest Disguise of a novel." Only then can he emerge from behind what he calls the "umbrage of editor" to offer a retroactive explanation for his project.

Hill's letter prods Richardson into his clearest statement of the circumstances surrounding the origins of Pamela (ibid., 119–121). He first describes how he received the kernel of a story twenty-five years earlier,


when a gentleman told him a story he had heard while traveling—the history of a "girl" who "engaged the attention of her lady's son, a young gentlemen of free principles, who, on her lady's death, attempted . . . to seduce her. That she had recourse to many innocent stratagems to escape the snares laid for her virtue . . . at last, her noble resistance, watchfulness, and excellent qualities, subdued him, and he thought fit to make her his wife" (Richardson, Selected Letters , 40). This is the "foundation in truth" referred to on the title page. Richardson then incorporated elements of that story as letters 138 and 139 of his Familiar Letters , the hybrid conduct book/writing manual he was then writing, "as cautions to young folks circumstanced as Pamela was." Finally, he began to enlarge the story because of its potential to reroute the reading practices of young people:

I thought the story, if written in an easy and natural manner, suitably to the simplicity of it, might possibly introduce a new species of writing, that might possibly turn young people into a course of reading different from the pomp and parade of romance-writing, and dismissing the improbable and marvelous, with which novels generally abound, might tend to promote the cause of religion and virtue. I therefore gave way to enlargement: and so Pamela became as you see her.
[Richardson, Selected Letters , 41 (Jan.-Feb. 1741)]

The terms used by Richardson to dismiss romances and novels—"pomp and parade," "improbable and marvelous"—are imprecise critical clichés. But they do suggest that producing a "new species of writing" to promote the cause of virtue pivots upon a shift in style—from decadent ornamentation to "an easy and natural manner," from aristocratic ostentation to "simplicity." Richardson will reform the novel by redressing it. The sartorial metaphor latent in this passage suggests the antagonistic proximity to novels Richardson's explicit statement denies. The experimental posture that Richardson assumes in introducing Pamela onto the print market in 1740 is expressed through reiterated use of the verb "might" to describe the positive effects sought in publishing Pamela : that he "might" introduce a new species of writing; that he "might" turn young people toward a new course of reading; and that he thereby "might" promote religion and virtue. Yet the success of this ambitious project is hostage to the effects it has on actual empirical acts of reception. If the project is to succeed, Richardson must win novel readers over to his own novel-substitute.

Because of its manifold similarity to the novels of amorous intrigue, the text of Pamela must ward off the sort of novelistic reading it might inadvertently court. In order to prevent his readers from doing to Pamela what Mr. B. does to its heroine—namely, read within the codes of the novels of


amorous intrigue—Richardson not only represents the genesis of its own proper reader, the reformed Mr. B., he also enfolds as if in an envelope his text, in a title page, a preface, and two letters that function as a guide to reading. When anti-pamelists confer a hostile reading upon Pamela after its publication, Richardson insists upon the priority of his original message, and tries to describe these readings as having come along later and befallen his text with arbitrary violence. Richardson's deflection of these readings resembles Pamela's characterization of Mr. B.'s response to her country dress as being perversely opposed to an original guiding intention. However, what I am referring to as Richardson's own "reader's guide" suggests that these misreadings are not belated in their arrival, but were anticipated all along. Novelistic misreadings are programmed into Pamela from its inception. It is as if the disease of misreading Pamela is inscribed in the text, so as to stimulate within the empirical reader of the text antidotes against the general contagion of novelistic reading.

The reader's guide to Pamela was a source of embarrassment to Richardson's eighteenth-century allies and the focus of derision for the antipamelists; it is likely that it is simply skipped by most modern readers of Pamela . It is, however, of considerable interest for the way in which it anticipates a distinctly modern discourse of advertising, product promotion, and cultural improvement. Unlike many other early novelists (Haywood and Aubin, for example), Richardson does not use dedications to seek the "protection" of recognized cultural authorities, but instead accepts the rigorous independence the market imposes upon authors. However, although he eschews traditional rituals of authorial self-abasement, his prefatory materials leave themselves open to Fielding's mockery of them as transparent self-flattery (see chapter 6). Nonetheless, this reader's guide also demonstrates Richardson's shrewd grasp of the market system of media culture he is attempting to redirect.

Richardson develops a new kind of promotional discourse in order to transmit a text stripped of any pre-given generic identity from the (hidden) author to an anonymous general readership. In an effort to cut through the clutter of numberless alternative forms of reading entertainment and catch the interest of potential readers, the reader's guide offers a fleeting profile of the heroine and her story. But to anticipate and foreclose the misreadings Pamela may provoke in unwary readers, and to distinguish his product from competing entertainments, Richardson promises that his (non-) novel will improve the reader. In order to prepare readers to read in the right way, Richardson's reader's guide makes three broad claims about the text it introduces: it warranties its beneficial effect upon readers; it


promotes the special efficacy of the letter form; and it stipulates a simple reader for Pamela . Each claim suggests the lines of resistance Richardson expects to encounter in rewiring media culture.

The first claim is about Pamela 's effect on readers: they are assured that this is not, and should not be read as, a type of novel. The onrush of mediaculture entertainments of dubious moral value requires a filtering process.[14] The title page of Pamela performs the function of the modern ratings system used in film distribution: in advance of first audience encounter, it promises that something is absent from the text being purveyed. Just as the modern moviegoer is assured by the "G-rating" affixed to a film that there will be no nudity, violence, or four-letter words, so the title page of Pamela assures potential readers it "is intirely divested of all those Images, which, in too many Pieces calculated for amusement only, tend to inflame the Minds they should instruct ." This claim is supported by the two anonymous prefatory letters apparently written by Jean Baptiste de Freval, a French translator living in London, and the Reverend William Webster, vicar of Thundridge and Ware.[15] Freval mobilizes English nationalism in offering Pamela as an "Example of Purity to the Writers of a neighbouring Nation [i.e., France] . . . which has so long passed current among us in Pieces abounding with all the Levities of its volatile Inhabitants" (5). The second letter, apparently by Webster, lauds Pamela 's entrance into a "World, which is but too much, as well as too early debauched by pernicious Novels . I know nothing Entertaining of that Kind that one might venture to recommend

[14] Richardson's "rating" of Pamela is an early step toward the modern ratings systems, seen at work in the passage through Congress in 1996 of a communications deregulation law that would require a "V-chip" be put in every television set sold in the future. This would enable parents to filter out programs containing high levels of violence. The networks are displeased with two aspects of this legislation: it requires a ratings system to determine which programming would be excluded by the V-chip, and it limits the potential audience and advertising revenues for shows screened out by the V-chip. However, one unintended effect of such a rating and screening system will be to offer legal and ethical cover for the development of still more violent shows for television. Ratings systems are an outgrowth of the impulse to screen out the increasingly powerful and pervasive systems of media culture.

[15] The letter that Eaves and Kimpel attribute to Webster was first published in Webster's Weekly Miscellany on October 11, 1740, 26 days before Pamela 's publication. There it is attributed to an anonymous friend of Richardson, and is described as having been written in response to an advance reading of the manuscript. Although such scholars as William Sale (Samuel Richardson , 15) have discounted the possibility that Richardson himself might have written or heavily revised the letter before it appeared in Webster's magazine, this seems to me a distinct possibility.


to the Perusal (much less the Imitation) of the Youth of either Sex: All that I have hitherto read, tends only to corrupt their Principles, mislead their Judgments, and initiate them into Gallantry and loose Pleasures" (8). Pamela passes through the critical mediation of these testimonials to its reader.

Having asserted Pamela 's distance from novels, the reader's guide supports the reader's moral vigilance by offering coming attractions. The second letter offers a summary of Pamela , first by describing the entertainment the letter writer experienced by identifying with the heroine in her "Sufferings," "Schemes of Escape," "little Machinations and Contrivances," and so forth, and then by underwriting the morality in the piece by explaining how, over the course of her many trials, Pamela's virtue prevails. But how do these letters gain the authority to act as censors for the potential readers of this text? Since the authors of the title page, preface, and two letters are all anonymous, the acceptance of these prefatory judgments cannot be guaranteed by the reputation of a recognizable critic. Instead, the prefatory material persuades through other means. First, each element performs a testimonial: an anonymous reader has read the text and testifies to its virtuous properties and effects, addresses the editor of Pamela with pious wonder, and advocates its speedy publication with a tone of earnest enthusiasm. Second, each of these elements of the reader's guide appeals to the presumed responses of general readers. Thus, for example, the editor ends his preface by stating the following principle: "he can Appeal from his own Passions (which have been uncommonly moved in perusing these engaging Scenes) to the Passions of Every one who shall read them with the least Attention " (3). In considering the popularity of Manley and Haywood in earlier chapters, the concept of the general reader of media culture was developed as the open set of all who might respond to a book's solicitation of the most common passions (such as love, fear, and the pursuit of self-interest). But in his letter to Aaron Hill, Richardson can only generalize from his own response to "Every one" who reads these letters "with the least Attention" by making the "bold stroke" of assuming "the umbrage of the editor's character to screen myself behind" (Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson , 119–120). A third way in which the prefatory material persuades is through disguise, as, in the guise of editor, Richardson baldly asserts an objectivity he ycannot legitimately claim: "because an Editor may reasonably be supposed to judge with an Impartiality which is rarely to be met with in an Author towards his own Works " (3). Publishing himself in disguise, apparently editing the letters he authors, Richardson's promotion of Pamela passes itself off as the enthusiasm of an indifferent reader.


The second major claim made by the reader's guide about Pamela is focused upon its letter form. Because this story is told in a series of familiar letters written by the virtuous and innocent protagonist to her parents, this text eludes the fanciful and shifty tendency of media culture. By casting his narrative as an edited collection of real letters, Richardson deflects the accusation of trivial fictionality, as well as the critical worry about repeating overworn generic conventions—what the writer of the first prefatory letter calls "the romantic Flights of unnatural Fancy" (4). At the same time, the reader's guide makes two claims for this narrative in letters: first, that they have their source in actual life (it has a "foundation in truth"); and second, that its technique of writing to the moment produces an illusion of immediacy that is exciting and vivid in comparison with retrospective narrative. The reader's guide claims that there are three reasons that the technique of "writing to the moment" evident in Pamela allows a more powerful mimesis of the mind of the writing subject: first, it depends on the moral character of the writer whose thoughts are reflected in her style of "Simplicity," "Propriety," and "Clearness"; second, the temporal proximity to events allows reality itself to use Pamela as its amanuensis ("the Letters being written under the immediate Impression of every Circumstance which occasioned them"); and finally, they are addressed to parents who may justifiably expect the most absolute openness—"those who had a Right to know the fair Writer's most secret Thoughts" (4). What Richardson will later call "writing to the moment" offers a technical rationale for claiming for his novels a transparency that is unprecedented in media culture. When they are later inserted into various aesthetic defenses of the novel as a form of literature, these two claims about the letter-novel—concerning its facticity and its immediacy—will be taken up by critics to bolster Richardson's claim to have invented a new kind of realism. In this way, Pamela's letters are given a certain anti-generic, antiaesthetic self-evidence. Of course, the "found document" topos was one of the most familiar devices of print culture.

"Familiar Letters" is the term that appears in large capital letters halfway down the title page of both of Richardson's sibling projects of the years 1740–1741: Pamela and the letter-writing guide. On the novel's title page, it appears after the novel's title, so as to designate the form that circulates between a "damsel" and her parents. In the letter-writing guide, it specifies the particular type of letter writing the text will teach its reader. In both cases, the "familiar letter" becomes the royal road to good conduct. Richardson's recourse to the letter form in Pamela evidences his effort to eschew the precariously public character of novels written for the general


reader. The familiar letter, as a letter between familiars who know and trust each other, offers Richardson a tactical and nostalgic temporal regression in media: from the mechanical, automated, general address to a public linked through print, to the idiosyncratic, personally crafted one-to-one communication of a manuscript letter. Richardson's use of the familiar letter engages a rhetoric of radical sincerity—transparent communication from heart to heart, with nothing held in reserve, nothing disguised. By looping the reader into a familiar, intimate form of reading and writing, he offers a counterthrust to the masked and rhetorical use of language by the novels of amorous intrigue. Those novels cut themselves off from ordinary familiar ties so as to draw their readers into an erotic reading practice. Richardson hopes to counteract the insidious mimicry of print, its ability to imitate every form of writing and address. Ironically, however, far from ending mimicry, his letter-novels instead draw a space represented as domestic, familiar, and private into the public sphere of print.

Richardson's third claim is that the reader must read in a certain way. What he is saying to the reader is, "In order to grasp the innocence and virtue of Pamela, you the reader must become naïve and innocent in your reading." The reader's guide establishes a crucial reciprocity between Pamela's character as simple and virtuous and the reader's simple and virtuous reading. The prefatory letter apparently by William Webster mandates a trustful reading of a young girl who, unlike many modern teenagers, is ready to show her parents exactly what she experiences and feels: "She pours out all her Soul in [her letters] before her Parents without Disguise; so that one may judge of, nay, almost see, the inmost Recesses of her Mind" (7). This we must take on faith—that Pamela is abundantly generous in pouring out her soul; that what she pours out is utterly devoid of disguise; and that her stream of words takes us not part way, but all the way into the "inmost Recesses" of her mind. After narrating the happy consequence of Pamela's resistance to Mr. B, his reform, and their marriage, the writer of this prefatory letter defines what makes her moral victory so remarkable. His commentary clears Pamela of any of the dubious tendencies and mixed motives I have suggested in reading the disguise scene: "And all this without ever having entertain'd the least previous Design or Thought for that Purpose: No Art used to inflame him, no Coquetry practised to tempt or intice him, and no Prudery or Affectation to tamper with his Passions; but, on the contrary, artless and unpracticed in the Wiles of the World, all her Endeavors, and even all her Wishes, tended only to render herself as un-amiable as she could in his Eyes" (7). Here is an exaggeration characteristic of the reader's guide. Surely a good deal within the


novel, from the country-dress scene to her strenuous self defense, evidences a wish to look amiable in Mr. B.'s eyes. But to heighten her virtuous renunciation of any "liberty and ambition," and to dispel the possibility that she simply doesn't care for Mr. B., this letter writer insists that Pamela does not feel unattracted to "his Person," but in fact "seems rather prepossess'd in his Favour, and admires his Excellencies." This letter articulates a familiar paradox: "The more she resisted, the more she charm'd; and the very Means she used to guard her Virtue, the more indanger'd it, by inflaming his Passions: Till . . . the Besieged not only obtain'd a glorious Victory over the Besieger, but took him Prisoner" (7). This passage brings us to the crux of a problem: the reader of Pamela and other novels, knowing the effect of Pamela's virtuous resistance—that it increases desire in Mr. B. and enables her to win him in marriage—is enjoined to read with the ignorance and innocence not in fact found in either Pamela or its eponymous heroine, but attributed to it and her by the reader's guide. Otherwise, the happy reward of virtue could be vitiated, retroactively.

In order to simplify reading, so that it supports the construction of an innocent and virtuous heroine and text, both Richardson and Pamela must refuse what might be called the eye and ear of social judgment—that performative dynamic resulting from the fact that it is others and not ourselves who judge the moral tendencies of our actions and writings. In order to screen out social judgment, both Richardson's reader's guide to Pamela and the reformed Mr. B. within the text engage in a promotion and praise that modulates into self-promotion and self-praise. They drown out others' voices not after they speak, but before. This discourages others from reading Pamela as a performance with a contestable variety of meanings. A counterperspective comes from the Pamela media event: it reinscribes Pamela within a contentious public sphere, where what a text means will be the negotiated outcome of sustained critical scrutiny by sophisticated adult readers.[16]


Richardson's carefully orchestrated promotional campaign is striking for two reasons—for its success in anticipating the future misreadings of

[16] In Reading Clarissa , I attribute the struggle of interpretations among readers of Clarissa to two different factors: the constitutive openness to interpretation of all texts (this is the Nietzschean, deconstructive horizon of that study), and the form and moral rhetoric of Richardson's practice. The latter included serial publication; an effacement of the author disguised as editor, who can try to control reader response indirectly; the winning of reader identification by the author through the impersonation of characters (130—131); and subject matter such as love and sex that encourages reader identification (125–142). Most of these factors are also at work in the publication and reception of Pamela . In this study, I am suggesting another source of hermeneutic openness: what precedes Richardsoh's writing—the "discourse network" of media culture with its novels of amorous intrigue—also authorizes Pamela 's skeptical reading and rewriting by others.


Pamela , and for its failure to protect the novel from these misreadings. My reading demonstrates the many ways in which Pamela is engaged with the terms of the antinovel discourse. With Pamela , Richardson hopes to transcend the debased and compromised terrain of media-culture entertainments. When, on a date before January 6, 1741, Dr. Benjamin Slocock of St. Saviour's in Southwark weighs in to recommend Pamela from the pulpit, and some compare the "simplicity" of the novel to that of the Bible (Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson , 121), Richardson's project to reform reading receives unprecedented support. But by raising the stakes of Pamela 's popularity, such support also helps incite the anti-pamelist reaction. Three anonymous responses to Pamela are published between April and June 1741: Fielding's Shamela, Pamela Censured , and Haywood's Anti-Pamela . All three of these texts situate Pamela by using the terms of the debate about novel reading, and all three betray anxiety about the effects of absorption in novel reading. The extent of the Pamela media event—with the varying revisions, extensions, and adaptations of Pamela —is documented by McKillop, Sale, and Eaves and Kimpel, by Kreissman's Pamela-Shamela , and (most recently) by James Turner and Richard Gooding. A selected list of the books and performances published in the wake of the popularity of Pamela forms an appendix to this book. Here, however, I will attend to the Pamela media event as it becomes a point of convergence within the debate about novel reading and rearticulates the struggle around licensing entertainment.

Pamela Censured and Shamela target the reader's guide for its blatant self-promotion. The Censurer of Pamela Censured: a Letter to the Editor insists on addressing Richardson as a "half-editor half-author" (9) and reproaches him for his "vanity" (12) in publishing so many self-praises at the front of his own book. Fielding's rejoinder to the frontmatter in Pamela is more indirect. In place of the letters from Freval and Webster, Shamela has two brief letters. The first, entitled "The Editor to Himself," predicts extravagant success, and overwhelms the author's putative modesty with these words: ". . . out with [Shamela ], without fear or favor, dedication and


all; believe me, it will go through many editions, be translated into all languages, read in all nations and ages, . . ." (275). It is signed "Sincerely your Well-wisher, YOURSELF." The second, slightly longer letter is signed "John Puff, Esq." Fielding's parodies of the reader's guide, while staying close to language found in Richardson's letters, capture the smug and vacuous expansiveness of modern advertisement. The blunt and lively brevity of Fielding's two letters invites us to see the prolixity of Richardson's promotional letters as an index of a somber self-inflation.

Fielding and "the Censurer" reject the claims with which the reader's guide to Pamela has sought to prescribe a certain way of reading it. They insist that a text cannot designate its own genre, or mandate the effects its reading will incite. Both Parson Oliver in Shamela and the Censurer of Pamela Censured treat Pamela like another novel on the market, and both deplore the effects it will have on susceptible young readers. The Censurer rejects the idea that Pamela 's concern with virtue is unheralded, pointing to the new translation of a French novel, La Paysanne Parvenue (a feminizing of Marivaux's Le Paysan Parvenu , by the Chevalier de Mouhy). The Censurer also refuses to give the narrative form of Pamela —as "a series of letters"—any special claims to truth. Thus he refutes the lofty claim that this "series of letters" comprises a "narrative" with its "foundation in truth and nature," claiming instead that Pamela is "but a romance formed in manner of a literary correspondence, founded on a tale which the author had heard, and modelled into its present shape" (7).

Fielding shows two ways in which the epistemological claims Richardson makes for his so-called collection of letters are undermined by what one might call the duplicitous plasticity of print media. Within Shamela , Fielding explains the publication of Pamela by having Mr. Booby commission Shamela's story (as the letter-novel "Pamela ") to be written by a Parson who, as Shamela explains to her mother, "can make my husband, and me, and Parson Williams, to be all great people, for he can make black white, it seems" (303). Fielding then circulates the letter-novel within the correspondence between the Pamela enthusiast Parson Tickletext and the rational skeptic Parson Oliver. When the latter provides Parson Tickletext with the true story and actual correspondence of Shamela (as opposed to the fabricated correspondence of "Pamela "), the meaning of Pamela's letters is transformed. Fielding's subversive displacements of Pamela are possible because of a trait that is inherent in all writing, and that is still more in evidence when manuscript writing is abstracted into print—namely, that there is nothing within a text to distinguish a true narrative from its false simulation. This not only means that anyone who "buys" a narrative or its


truth had best beware—it also means that there is nothing to stop critics at any time from doing what Fielding and Haywood and the Censurer do to Pamela in the spring of 1741: treat it as a novel.[17]

In chapters 3 and 4 I argued that the antinovel discourse is haunted by the specter of the erotically aroused (usually female) body, absorbed in novel reading. By writing Pamela in a protracted series of letters, almost all written from the point of view of the heroine, and depicting extreme states of anxiety, fear, and struggle, Richardson strives to induce hyperabsorption in his reader. In order to prevent his own reading from resembling novel reading, Richardson's reader's guide prescribes a virtuous and naïve reader for Pamela . Against this prescription, the anti-pamelists assert a broad range of possible readers, each assuming a different disposition toward the text. Some are described as young, absorbed, susceptible, and liable to imitative acting-out of the text. Others are described as safely past their "grand climacteric." Some are worldly, sophisticated readers able to comprehend double entendres and savor the pornographic tendency of certain scenes. All these readers, however, are in need of the wariness the antipamelists would teach.

By making the question of how Pamela is read an issue, the anti-pamelists inscribe the question of novel reading within a public-sphere exchange. I have noted how Fielding inserts a debate about the pleasures and dangers of reading Pamela within a correspondence between two mature, public-spirited parsons; in a similar vein, Pamela Censured is prefaced with a dedication to the Reverend Slocock, urging him to withdraw the encomium to Pamela he has offered from the pulpit. The pamphlet proper is written in the form of a public exhortation, addressed to the "Editor of Pamela ," urging the editor to remove the offending passages of an otherwise laudable performance. After making censures on the prefatory materials and offering his own third-person summary of Pamela's story, the Censurer devotes the bulk of the pamphlet to citations of the "inflaming" passages of Pamela , interlaced with critical commentary deploring their effect on unwary readers. This narrative form seeks to shatter Pamela 's

[17] For a full discussion of this debate within early print culture and the problem it produced for readers of stories claimed to be true because they are based upon found documents, see McKeon, Origins of the English Novel . In an essay on McKeon's book, I suggest an "ineluctable gap that opens beneath the quest for truth in narrative: once it has been transported from the place or time of its production, no text, whatever its aspirations to facticity and truth, can bear a mark in its own language that can truly verify its relation to something outside itself" (Warner, "Realist Literary History," 67).


power to absorb its reader; yet, in its public-spirited alarm, it also extends the erotic potential of reading Pamela .

In "Novel Panic: Picture and Performance in the Reception of Richardson's Pamela ," James Turner shows how it comes about that in the Pamela wars, the stark oppositions of the antagonists bleed into one another. Those within Richardson's "discursive circle" use a language of reformed sensation that implies the very erotic imagination they strive to censor; the anti-pamelists reject the character of an inner Pamela so as to embrace a theory of reading that "pornographizes" those scenes "that for Pamela herself provoke terror rather than erotic reverie" (78). Turner argues that by moving inexorably toward visualizing Pamela's body, both pamelists and anti-pamelists assume the automatic responses of readers. At the same time, the general impulse to visualize the heroine takes Pamela into paintings and illustrations, stage productions and opera. Turner's subtle essay suggests that neither the promoters nor the antagonists of Pamela can so easily elude the tug of its absorptive and absorbing scenarios. This insight confirms what my reading above suggests: that in claiming that readers respond to Pamela as if it were a novel, the anti-pamelists imitate the terms and scenerios of Pamela and its prefatory material. Like Mr. B., every reader faces the critical problem of assessing Pamela's performance—for example, by discriminating a virtuous girl from a scheming girl who would "snap at a husband," and the text of Pamela from that of a mere novel. By staging the solution to this question around a morally polarized interplay between inner and outer, soul and body, spiritual sensibility and erotic arousal, Pamela gives the question of the body—that is, whether it is innocent or lubricious—allegorical force.

The Reader Who Saw Too Much: Visualizing Pamela's "ETC."

Turner concludes his article by attributing the emergence of the body within the Pamela media event to the general nature of fiction, asking rhetorically, "Can the process of reading fiction ever escape the endless circle of enclosing and displaying, divesting and investing, an imaginary body?" (92) But rather than making the visualization of the body a universal trait of fiction, I suggest that the insistence of this body within the Pamela media event has a specific historical reference. The body of that precocious reader Pamela, trapped within the anti-novel Richardson is trying to write, is a descendent of the body that Manley exposes to seduction in the Duke's library (in the New Atalantis ) and the body that Haywood places at the side of a stream, reading alone but observed by her lover (in


Love in Excess ). Within each novel, these bodies figure the contested body, that of the absorbed novel reader, outside the text (see chapters 3 and 4). Although Richardson seeks to remove his text and its readers from a bad novelistic absorption, his own hyperabsorptive strategies intensify the questions raised by the absorbed novel-reading body: From what do readers get pleasure? What do they see when they read? What are the ethical effects of this pleasure? Because reading may be surmised to be somewhat different in each reader, and because it leaves no traces, these questions become a nexus of interminable cultural strife.

We can get a grasp of how Pamela reconfigures these questions by following the critical exchanges around one passage of Pamela —the scene in which Pamela catches her dress in the door while fleeing from Mr. B., then falls down unconscious in a "fit" of "terror." In this early scene, Mr. B. is still very far from having learned to look for Pamela's truth within the folds of her letters. Instead, he is looking at the surface of her body. This passage condenses many of the pivotal elements of Pamela : Mr. B.'s compositional designs and sexual assault, Pamela's sturdy resistance, and a mise-en-scène of the visualization which Pamela obliges the reader to attempt, but which it also seeks to restrain.

He by Force kissed my Neck and Lips; and said, Who ever blamed Lucretia , but the Ravisher only? and I am content to take all the Blame upon me; as I have already borne too great a Share for what I have deserv'd. May I, said I, Lucretia like, justify myself with my Death, if I am used barbarously? O my good Girl! said he, tauntingly, you are well read, I see; and we shall make out between us, before we have done, a pretty Story in Romance, I warrant ye!

He then put his Hand in my Bosom, and the Indignation gave me double Strength, and I got loose from him, by a sudden Spring, and ran out of the Room; and the next Chamber being open, I made shift to get into it, and threw-to the Door, and the Key being on the Inside, it locked; but he follow'd me so close, he got hold of my Gown, and tore a Piece off, which hung without the Door.

I just remember I got into the Room; for I knew nothing further of the Matter till afterwards; for I fell into a Fit with my Fright and Terror, and there I lay, till he, as I suppose, looking through the Keyhole, spy'd me lying all along upon the Floor, stretch'd out at my Length; and then he call'd Mrs. Jervis to me, who, by his Assistance, bursting open the Door, he went away, seeing me coming to myself; and bid her say nothing of the Matter, if she was wise.

Poor Mrs. Jervis thought it was worse . . . [42]

This passage records a tear in the narrative. Within the continuous first-person narrative of what Pamela has seen or heard, she falls into a "fit" of


"fright and terror." But despite the absence of the consciousness who narrates the events, the narrative goes on. To fill in the gap in her knowledge, Pamela allows herself to "suppose" that Mr. B. looks at her through the door that has locked by itself behind her as she flees. This voyeurism is an expression of both Mr. B.'s desire and his restraint. This scene's contentious conversation, and its literally rendered physical struggle around Pamela's body ("He then put his Hand in my Bosom") does not, after her fit, issue in Mr. B.'s rape of her. He does not simply force the door and have his way with her (as Lovelace eventually would with Clarissa). Instead, he calls Mrs. Jervis. And even later on, in Lincolnshire, when he has the bawdy Mrs. Jewkes to urge him on and Pamela is passed out naked in bed, he does not gratify his lust. There is, as many critics have pointed out, an important reticence about Mr. B.'s desire. He desires more than sex—that more-than-sex the plot will figure as reading Pamela's letter journal. So, through the tear in the narrative, we glimpse . . . a structure of looking: in an oddly suspended narrative tableau, Mr. B. accepts a position behind the door, and looks through the keyhole at the prone body of Pamela. That this scene is based upon nothing more than Pamela's surmise makes it a condensation point of her desire, too. Through this gap in the narrative of Pamela , the reader, like Mr. B., is surmised to be looking.

In the critical reception of Pamela , contending visualizations of the text articulate themselves around this passage. In Pamela Censured this scene is quoted at length and draws the strongest condemnation of Richardson. Here, the Censurer insists, Richardson is surely allowing the reader to see too much. The passage is introduced with a heavy irony: "And here the Author . . . contrives to give us an idea of Pamela's hidden beauties, and very decently to spread her upon the floor, for all who will peep through the door to surfeit on the sight" (28). After a full quotation of the text, the Censurer poses invidious questions, details what he supposes every reader of this scene must be able to see, and then surmises its effect upon different readers.

Was not the Squire very modest to withdraw? For she lay in such a pretty posture that Mrs. Jervis thought it was worse, and Mrs. Jervis was a woman of discernment; . . . The young lady by thus discovering a few latent charms, as the snowy complexion of her limbs, and the beautiful symmetry and proportion which a girl of about fifteen or sixteen must be supposed to show by tumbling backwards, after being put in a flurry by her lover, and agitated to a great degree, takes her smelling bottle, has her laces cut, and all the pretty little necessary things that the most luscious and warm description can paint, or the fondest imagination conceive. How


artfully has the author introduced an image which no youth can read without emotion! The idea of peeping through a keyhole to see a fine woman extended on the floor, in a posture that must naturally excite passions of desire, may indeed be read by one in his grand climacteric without ever wishing to see one in the same situation, but the editor of Pamela directs himself to the youth of both sexes; therefore all the instruction they can possibly receive from this passage, is, first, to the young men that the more they endeavor to find out the hidden beauties of their mistresses, the more they must approve them; and for that Purpose all they have to do, is, to move them by some amorous dalliance to give them a transient view of the pleasure they are afterwards to reap from the beloved object. And secondly, to the young ladies that whatever beauties they discover to their lovers, provided they grant not the last favor, they only ensure their admirers the more; and by a glimpse of happiness captivate their suitor the better. [31–32]

How does the writer of Pamela Censured support the claim that this scene has "introduced an image which no youth can read without emotion"? Pamela Censured exposes the latent eroticism of Richardson's scene by translating it into the language and situations of the novels of amorous intrigue. Now Pamela's strenuous defense of her virtue is simply another episode in a sportive battle of the sexes. Pamela is a designing heroine who displays her charms as weapons during an erotic frolic while "put in a flurry by her lover" and "tumbling backward." What she discovers to the Censurer—"the snowy complexion of her limbs," and their "beautiful symmetry and proportion"—is cast in the trite descriptive terminology of love novels. The Censurer does not believe that putting the spectacle of the fallen Pamela before the eye of mature readers would lead to them to wish to experience such a sight for themselves. However, he reproves the editor of Pamela for opening such a scene before the "youth of both sexes." Here there's a reiteration of the central warning of the antinovel discourse: novels will incite a bad emulation by their readers. This scene, it is supposed, not only creates a lascivious desire for a "transient view" of "hidden beauties," it teaches young men and women to manipulate this viewing to their own advantage.[18]

[18] In her very interesting reading of this passage from Pamela Censured , Tassie Gwilliam looks through the keyhole of the opening in Pamela 's narrative and locates the scandal of gender performativity. By her argument, Mr. B. is here more than a voyeur; he identifies with Pamela as a spectacle, making her (duplicitous) femininity a pathway to masculine self-knowledge. This act of identification acquires synecdochical force by the way it repeats the fundamental terms of Richardson's narrative transvestism: "The excitement generated by this scene comes from the representation of Pamela seeing herself as a man would see her through the keyhole, itself perhaps the fantasy of a man imagining himself as a woman being watched by a man" (41). Gwilliam's reading shows why the assertion of Pamela's inner nature or identity is menaced by the very system of disguise that is supposed, through a moment of unveiling, to discover the true body or self beneath. Both Gwilliam and Madeleine Kahn (the latter in Narrative Transvestism ) interpret Richardson's recourse to writing as a woman as his attempt to make the mystery of ungraspable femininity a means of stabilizing his own (finally ungraspable) masculinity. But often in Gwilliam and Kahn the anxiety surrounding confusions of gender identity is supposed rather than demonstrated. I am struck by the ease with which writers from Behn through Fielding stage disguised reversals of gender. There is much to suggest that eighteenth-century writers, whether they were male or female, did not find gender boundaries as fixed or fraught as later critics have; nor do eighteenth-century writers ground personal identity in sexual practice as insistently as has been the case since Freud. This is one of the salient themes of Foucault's History of Sexuality (vol. 1). Jill Campbell, in her discussion of the theoretic work of Joan Scott and Judith Butler, offers useful cautions on the necessary anachronism of using gender as an analytical category for reading eighteenth-century texts (Natural Masques , 4–8). Here, I focus on gender identity as only one of several terms that is threatened with confusion by the practice of absorptive novel reading.


An analytic perspective can be developed on the censures of reader visualization in Pamela by taking account of how Jean Marie Goulemot places a visualization of the aroused body at the center of eighteenth-century pornography in his Ces livres qu'on ne lit que d'une main (Those Books that One Can Only Read with One Hand , but entitled in English translation Forbidden Texts ). Goulemot reads Marivaux's Le Paysan Parvenu and Diderot's Jacques La Fataliste and develops the thesis that the pornographic novel orchestrates a scene with certain elements: the body ready for arousal; the gradual display of that body (often in fetishized parts); and the voyeur in the text (sometimes the agent of sexual attack, or often another person who is shocked or pleased with the sexual act—and participating somehow). Thus he argues that the "key element of the erotic novel" is "the making of pictures, organized in order to solicit the gaze, a call to the reader that he should take up the proper distance from the narrative in order to see, to admire, and to examine" (48–49). In contrast to the libertine novel, which develops the art of persuasion to overcome resistance, the erotic novel finds bodies ready for sex, resistance trivial, and obstacles easily overcome (50).

By applying Goulemot's template for pornography to the erotic texts covered in this study (from Behn to Richardson), it is clear how the Censurer's pamphlet intervenes to articulate a relation between Pamela and earlier novels. In Love Letters , the New Atalantis , and Love in Excess , there


are elaborately staged scenes of sexual arousal that are clearly pornographic in the way they construct voyeuristic pleasure for an absorbed reader. In the scenes of sexual attack in Pamela there are several elements of the theatrical sex scenes found in Behn, Manley, and Haywood—sexual aggression, a literal depiction of bodies, and a hectic intensification of the narrative prose. However, in the place of the aroused erotic subject, the body ready for sex, there is Pamela resisting her would-be seducer, and pushed, through the violence of Mr. B.'s assault, into unconsciousness. For Richardson, Pamela's "fit" of unconsciousness offers evidence of her virtuous resistance to the climactic novelistic sex scene Mr. B. would put her in. But for the Censurer, Pamela's being "out cold" invites the reader to imitate Mr. B. in luxuriously gazing at Pamela's body, thereby implicating Richardson in staging a pornographic scene to arouse the reader.

On May 28, 1741, slightly over a month after the publication of Pamela Censured , John Kelly publishes his sequel to Richardson's novel, entitled Pamela's Conduct in High Life . In the preface, Kelly responds to the Censurer on Pamela 's behalf, attempting to impose limits upon the Censurer's pornographic elaboration of it. The supposed editor of Pamela's papers in Kelly's sequel, one "B.W.," demonstrates that the perverse and lascivious author of Pamela Censured has seen more "ideas" than the text contains. Following the pattern of the pamphlet, B.W. quotes the same Pamela passage the Censurer has quoted, and asks rhetorically what there is in this passage to "kindle desire" or allow us to suppose that Pamela fell into an "indecent posture." B.W. goes on, "Well, but the warmth of imagination in this virtuous Censurer supplies the rest," and accuses the Censurer of giving "an idea of Pamela's hidden beauties, and would have you imagine she lies in the most immodest posture." Thus it is the Censurer, not the editor/author, who endeavors "to impress [upon] the minds of youth that read his Defense of Modesty and Virtue, Images that may enflame."

Is there any particular posture described? Oh, but the Censurer lays her in one which may enflame, you must imagine as lusciously as he does; if the Letter has not discovered enough, the pious Censurer lends a hand, and endeavors to surfeit your sight by lifting the covering which was left by the editor, and with the hand of a boisterous ravisher takes the opportunity of Pamela's being in a swoon to——But I am writing to a lady, and shall leave his gross ideas to such as delight to regale their sensuality on the most luscious and enflaming Images.
[Kelly, Pamela's Conduct in High Life , xv]

Kelly's restoration of the veil of modesty torn from Pamela by this "boisterous ravisher" has a contradictory double edge. By contesting the textual


accuracy of the Censurer's visualization of the scene, Kelly attributes its prurient tendency to the Censurer. But Kelly's censoring interruption—"But I am writing to a lady"—reiterates a cliché of erotic discourse. By refusing to repeat the words with which the Censurer reports what may be supposed to be seen after Pamela's fall, Kelly produces an elision in his own text at the place of pornographic elaboration he refuses to cite. In other words, he marks the interdicted spot of the Censurer's text, and his own text, with an implicit "etc."—the eighteenth-century slang for women's genitals, which is used in this way by Fielding in Shamela .

Despite the contrast between the Censurer's exuberant and unseemly visualizations and Kelly's modest textual exactitude, both justify their revision of Pamela's narrative by defining a normative response for Pamela 's reader. This is the game that has been played around popular media culture ever since. However, there are factors outside the text of Pamela that prevent this tear from being mended by any definitive suturing. What fragments this text is the contested plurality of programs for reading unleashed by the Pamela media event. The intensity of the strife around this scene from Pamela is symptomatic of the negotiation of terms for a casting out of bad erotic writing, as pornography, and a concomitant elevation of novel reading. While Pamela Censured returns Pamela to the discursive terms and readerly expectations associated with the erotic novels of Behn, Manley, and Haywood, Kelly asserts the ethical restraint about visualization concomitant with Richardson's project.

In attempting to provide an "antidote" to what is called the "epidemical frenzy" of Pamela 's popularity, Fielding's Shamela forecloses precisely the sort of visualization by the reader that the Censurer elaborates and condemns. In spite of the blunt sexuality of the action, and its bawdy use of innuendo, Shamela eschews any visualization of sex. In its place, readers hear the worldly voice of the scheming Shamela. Instead of gratifying the curiosity of a reader who is absorbed and isolated, Fielding brings Pamela into a public discursive space where she can be exposed as a sham. The Pamela media event draws the eighteenth century's most prolific writer of novels—Eliza Haywood—back into novel writing after a hiatus of nearly a dozen years; on June 20, 1741, she publishes anonymously the Anti-Pamela; or Feigned Innocence detected; in a SERIES of Syrena's Adventures . In this text, Haywood ingeniously rewrites her own early novels of amorous intrigue so as to critique Pamela . Like Fielding's Shamela , the Anti-Pamela suggests that the latent sexuality of Pamela mandates that it be read as a novel; and like Fielding, Haywood shows that women as well as men may ensnare and seduce, and that modest femininity can be a canny


performance. Haywood's "detection" of "reigned innocence" pivots upon exhausting seriality—of the compulsive sexual appetite that impels Syrena into a succession of intrigues; of the consumption of the novels of amorous intrigue Haywood herself had perfected; of the Pamela rip-offs to which she herself here contributes; and of the dubious entertainments that she describes experiencing in her own youth in a passage from volume 1 of the Female Spectator : "My Life, for some years, was a continued round of what I then called Pleasure, and my whole time engrossed by a hurry of promiscuous diversions" (2). This multifaceted critique of seriality prepares Haywood for the reform that enables her turn to domestic fiction in the 1750s.

In Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1747), the first indigenous British pornography, John Cleland negotiates a distinct course through the issues activated by the Pamela media event. While he accepts the fundamental goal of pornography—to arouse the reader—his text, like Richardson's, carries its own improving agenda. In an introduction to a 1986 edition of Cleland's novel, Peter Sabor argues that the Memoirs develops an elaborately euphemistic language to render its erotic scenes in order to eschew the crude language of earlier French pornography found in, for example, the School of Venus (xvii–xviii). To provide a framework for the gallery of erotic scenes in the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure , Cleland plots Fanny through an action that offers an optimistic revision of Defoe's Roxana (1724) and Hogarth's Harlot's Progress (1732). When its success precipitates the arrest of Cleland and his publisher, Ralph Griffiths, Cleland (as if following the advice from Pamela Censured that Richardson refused) expurgates the explicitly sexual scenes, cutting the text by a third. Then the novel can circulate as the single-volume Memoirs of Fanny Hill (1750), within the market for improving novels (Sabor's introduction to Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure , ix–x). The consolidation of the morally improving novel after 1740 is reciprocally complicit with the condensation of the debased category for fiction called "pornography." In this way, the cultural terrain that the novels of Behn, Manley, and Haywood had worked—including idealistic love, licentious sex, and much in between—is subdivided between the elevated novel and pornography.[19]

[19] I follow Goulemot in using the word "pornography," although the term is anachronistic (see introduction to Hunt, Invention of Pornography ). Goulemot suggests 1650–1750 as being the period in France when censorship gave pornography a distinct generic identity (Goulemot, Forbidden Texts , 10–13). Although press regulation was more relaxed in Britain, toleration of pornography was not. In defending the expurgated edition of Cleland's Memoirs , its publisher Ralph Griffiths reviews it in these terms: "it does not appear to us that this performance . . . has anything in it more offensive to decency of sentiment and expression than our own novels and books of entertainment have: . . . The news-papers inform us, that the celebrated history of Tom Jones has been suppressed in France as an immoral work" (Monthly Review , March 1750, cited in Foxon, Libertine Literature in England , 57–58).


Catching Young and Airy Minds

Richardsoh's doctor, George Cheyne, advised Richardson on his own sequel to Pamela , urging him to "avoid fondling—and gallantry, tender expressions . . . especially in the sex (i.e. women)" (Richardson, Selected Letters , 46). But if Richardson is to elevate novel reading, he knows he must offer young readers attractive substitutes for the novels they now consume. In a reply to Cheyne, written on August 31, 1741, after the onslaught of the anti-pamelists, he offers his most precise statement of the risks and rewards of writing Pamela as a lively story with a fair share of amorous intrigue. His letter sketches the formula for his own elevation of novel reading. First, in what he represents, he must aim neither too high nor too low: "And the principal complaints against me by many, and not libertines neither, are, that I am too grave, too much of a methodist, and make Pamela too pious. . . . In my scheme I have generally taken human nature as it is; for it is to no purpose to suppose it angelic, or to endeavor to make it so" (ibid., 47). Second, his writing will engage the curiosity about sex that passionate young readers are determined to gratify: "There is a time of life, in which the passions will predominate; and ladies, any more than men, will not be kept in ignorance; and if we can properly mingle instruction with entertainment, so as to make the latter seemingly the view, while the former is really the end, I imagine it will be doing a great deal." However, an entertaining gratification of curiosity entails a degree of literal depiction that Richardson is aware may open his text to perverse debasement: "There is no writing on these subjects to please such a gentleman as that in the Tatler , who could find sex in a laced shoe, when there was none in the foot, that was to wear it." Then, Richardson mocks the sort of licentious reading—a perverse fascination for looking under skirts—all too evident in Pamela Censured . "And what would such a one have said to pass now through Covent-Garden, under twenty hoop-petticoats, hanging over his head at the habit shops?" (47) Just as perversion involves a deflection of the sexual act (Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-Analysis , 306), so Richardson sees it as being necessary to expose his text to perverse


readers and risk a general deflection of his meaning, in order to reach his target audience.

To reach young readers, who "will not be kept in ignorance," Pamela must risk allowing readers to see or hear too much. Thus, for example, some readers may hear double entendres where the author assures us none were intended. The author of Pamela Censured , for example, finds one passage particularly indecent:

After some little tart repartees and sallies aiming at wit, the author seems to indulge his genius with all the rapture of lascivious ingenuity:

I wish, said he, (I'm almost ashamed to write it, impudent Gentleman as he is!) I wish, I had thee as QUICK ANOTHER WAY, as thou art in thy repartees.—And he laughed, and I snatched my hands from him, and tripped away as fast I could. . . .

Here virtue is encouraged with a vengeance and the most obscene idea expressed by a double entendre, which falls little short of the coarsest ribaldry; yet Pamela is designed to mend the Taste and manners of the Times, and instruct and encourage youth in virtue . . . [44]

The Censurer's rebuke to the editor of Pamela ignores the signs of Richardson's own unease with the freedom of Mr. B.'s words, evident in Pamela's modest parenthetically expressed shame about transcribing B's repartee: "(I'm almost ashamed to write it, impudent Gentleman as he is!)" Richardson was stung enough by this censure to remove this jest from his final edition of Pamela (Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson , 129). But surgery on this passage does not control other double meanings. The long defense of Pamela against its critics appended by Richardson to the prefatory material in the second edition (February 14, 1741), consisting mostly of excerpts of letters from Aaron Hill, responds to the letter of an anonymous critic of Pamela 's double entendres with an appalled determination to ignore its criticism: "[this is] too dirty for the rest of his Letter. . . . In the occasions he is pleased to discover for jokes, I either find not, that he has any signification at all, or such vulgar, course-tasted allusions to loose low-life Idioms, that not to understand what he means, is both the cleanliest [sic ], and prudentest [sic ] way of confuting him" (16).

If Richardson can win readers willing "not to understand," or at least to pretend they don't understand, the licentious meanings that may proliferate within the text, then he can use scenes of kissing and erotic touching to promote moral improvement. Thus in reply to Cheyne's cautions, he writes, "To say, that these tender scenes (between Mr. B. and Pamela) should be supposed rather than described, is not answering my design, when the instruction lies in them, and when I would insinuate to my


younger readers, that even their tenderest loves should be governed by motives of gratitude for laudable obligations; and I have been told I am in danger of leaving nature, and being too refined for practice on some of these occasions. But I hope not!" (49) By having Pamela use sex as the reward for a virtuous sentimental commerce, Richardson can "insinuate" an upward displacement in the amorous practice of his young readers. It is only, he argues, through the literal depiction of his scenes of love that he can provide substitute gratifications for the young reader, and so catch his prey:

I am endeavoring to write a story, which shall catch young and airy minds, and when passions run high in them, to show how they may be directed to laudable meanings and purposes, in order to decry such novels and romances, as have a tendency to inflame and corrupt: and if I were to be too spiritual, I doubt I should catch none but grandmothers, for the granddaughters would put my girl indeed in better company, such as that of the graver writers, and there they would leave her; but would still pursue those stories, that pleased their imaginations without informing their judgments.

Richardson has a print-market professional's sure grasp of the ultimate power of the reader—to be bored by a book and put it aside; he knows, too, that the natural proclivities of readers are as different as the bodies of grandmothers and granddaughters; and he has designated his target audience—"young and airy minds." It is with these things in mind that Richardson plots his seduction of the reader. By introducing his "girl" Pamela /Pamela to his readers at the most opportune moment, "when passions run high in them," and by decrying novels so as to depreciate their value to readers, Richardson attempts to redirect the passions of his readers "to laudable meanings and purposes." This deflection of passions is at the center of his project to reform reading and license entertainment. The potential efficacy of such a project—applauded by the pamelists and rejected by the antipamelists—results from the same factor that renders it uncertain: the ultimate freedom of readers. Exercising a freedom conferred by the market, readers (may) choose their own improvement.[20]

[20] Richardson's problems adjusting the moral rhetoric of his use of sex in his novels continue with Clarissa . One of his most proprietous correspondents, Lady Echlin, complains in a letter dated September 2, 1755, that "the best instruction you can give, blended with love intrigues, will never answer your good intention" (Correspondence , v. 5, 54). For a fuller discussion of the problem of shaping the experience of readers, see W. Warner, Reading Clarissa , 137ff.


How does the Pamela media event affect the cultural location of novels, and what sorts of critical practices can, after this media event, proliferate around them? The very ambition of Richardson's project to reshape novel reading raises the stakes around novel reading, and this, as I have shown, becomes a provocation to those who refuse his reforming "scheme." The success of Pamela as a "new species" of elevated novel reading, and the intensity of the counteroffensive of the anti-pamelists, not only precipitate a debate about what reading for pleasure should be; this debate also means that the contending readers of the Pamela media event, in order to support or deflate Pamela 's pretensions, start reading Pamela in ways that are important to the long-term institutionalization of novel reading. To state the case most schematically, it is at this point that English readers start engaging in the sort of sympathetic identification with and critical judgment of fictional characters that will lie at the center of novel reading from Richardson, Fielding, and Frances Burney through Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Henry James.

The following are some of the interrelated elements of this new practice of reading: Pamela 's readers "read through" the words and ideas of the novel's eponymous heroine in order to assess her character to discover whether Pamela is what the text's subtitle declares her to be—a personification of virtue—or its reverse, a mere sham. By conferring on a character in a novel some of the free-standing qualities of a real person, and insisting that judgments of literary character reflect as much light on those who judge as they do on the judged, both sides in the Pamela wars confer an unprecedented moral seriousness upon the evaluation of fictional characters. The strife around Pamela draws readers into particular practices of detailed reading: selecting what to read so as to emphasize one thing instead of another; being provoked by incomplete descriptions; filling out the picture to one's own taste; using one's imagination to read between the lines; discerning the supposedly "real" intention of the author; and, finally, distinguishing the "proper" from the "improper" in a text, in order to judge whether a text is "readable" or "unreadable." All these practices of reading may produce a more or less "qualified" reading, which in turn becomes an index of a reader's position in the social hierarchy. By identifying the lives of characters with their own lives and by indulging a sympathetic confusion of the imaginary and the real, readers relocate the distinction between fiction and reality from an opposition between the novel and the world to one within a new species of elevated novel. Habermas suggests that this kind of reading helps constitute


a critical public sphere of private subjects (Habermas, Structural Transformation , 50).[21]

Anti-Theatrical Theater that Absorbs

The Pamela media event evidences a mutation in the print-media culture in Britain. By embracing the basic thesis of the antinovel discourse—that novels can induce a dangerously automatic imitation in their readers—Richardson incorporates that imitative tendency into Pamela 's invitation to the reader to take its heroine as an example. In this way, he develops the claim that reading Pamela will make a reader virtuous. Such a claim is endorsed in 1751 when Johnson introduces Richardson to the readers of the Rambler as the writer who "has taught the passions to move at the command of virtue" (Johnson, Rambler , head note to Richardson's guest appearance in No. 97, Feb. 19, 1751). As I have shown, the anti-pamelists refute this claim by directing many themes of the antinovel discourse against Pamela . However, in order to marshal their arguments, the anti-pamelists follow Richardson in assuming that there is an opposition between good and bad reading, true and false imitation, fact and fiction; like him, they assume that these distinctions can be negotiated within an interpretation of an anonymously authored love story. In doing so, they implicitly concede a new ethical potential for novel reading.

By publishing the antinovel Pamela , Richardson had not intended to confer a new legitimacy on novels. When he interrupted his composition of a conduct book (the Familiar Letters ) in order to write a novel in letters, Richardson thought he was inscribing novels within conduct discourse. This, we have seen, is the central theme of the reader's guide within which he wrapped his collection of Pamela's letters. Readers since the eighteenth

[21] Of course, critical debates about character precede the Pamela media event. For example, after Lafayette's publication of La Princess de Clèves (1678), debates swirled around the princess's shocking disclosure to her husband of her love for the Duke de Nemours. However, the novels of Richardson in England and of Rousseau in France triggered a type of identification that gave debates about the true nature of a fictional character a new level of importance. In "Readers Respond to Rousseau," Robert Darnton describes the way in which Rousseau stimulates the desire in his readers to confess their inmost feelings of identification that the novels have triggered in them: "A young woman wrote that she could identify with Rousseau's characters, unlike those in all the other novels she had read, because they did not occupy a specific social station but rather represented a general way of thinking and feeling, one that everyone could apply to their own lives and thus become more virtuous" (247). For some of the formulations of this paragraph, I am indebted to a paper written in my seminar at SUNY Buffalo by Kim Sungho.


century have remarked, and sometimes complained, that the last third of Pamela deflects the narrative of the protagonist's adventures into a guide on how to conduct oneself as a virtuous wife. This withdrawal from novelistic action is entirely consistent with Richardson's design on his readers. Pamela was to have exhausted the desire to read any other novel. But instead of ending the popularity of novels, Pamela helped to enlarge the repertoire of novelistic entertainments. To understand this reversal of Richardson's intended effects, it is necessary to grasp how the market of media-culture entertainments expands to assimilate Pamela .

Paradoxically, the very features of the system of media culture that allow Pamela to become a publishing phenomenon also limit Richardson's control over a text that is no longer precisely "his." Above, I characterized print-media culture as an open system in which entertainment circulates on a market for culture that is non-hierarchical, that is swept by whim and fashion, and that sanctions whatever succeeds. Richardson's carefully guarded anonymity in publishing Pamela should be understood as the most powerful way to exploit the tendencies of this system. By suppressing his own authorial role, Richardson can act through his text, as if by remote control, to elevate novel reading (W. Warner, Reading Clarissa , chapter 5). As an anonymous text, belonging to no one, and written about nobody in particular (Gallagher, Nobody's Story ), Pamela can exploit media culture as an open system, in which the general reader engages texts for diverse reasons.

In order to reform novel reading, Pamela must avoid the delusive absorption attributed to novels over the course of the eighteenth century, and to Pamela itself by critics such as Fielding and the author of Pamela Censured . Derived from the Old French absorber and Latin absorbere "to suck away," "to absorb" means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary , not only "to take (something) in through pores or interstices," but also "to occupy the full attention, interest, or time of." As a synonym of "monopolize, consume, engross, preoccupy," this second meaning shares with these verbs the idea of having "exclusive possession or control of." This notion of the totality of absorption is also active in physics, where it means "to retain (radiation or sound, for example) wholly, without reflection or transmission" (Oxford English Dictionary ). It is the idea of the completeness of absorption of the reader in the text—where the ideas of the novel enter the reader's brain without dilution, deflection, or mediation—that provides the novel's potential for corruption. Within the antinovel discourse, a reader who consumes a novel can be absorbed by that novel. If, for example, he or she acts out the manners and action of the characters, there is an "unhappy


inversion": that which the reader seeks to absorb absorbs the reader and that which is consumed consumes the consumer. Addictive reading of novels could then produce an epidemic of the sort of "emulous desire" of which Arabella, Charlotte Lennox's romance reader in The Female Quixote , must be cured (366). But the novel's absorptive power over the reader also gives the novel the potential to turn readers toward virtue.

The critical work of Michael Fried on French eighteenth-century painting and David Marshall on Shaftesbury, Defoe, and Rousseau suggests that Richardson's development of an elevated novel lies right at the center of the century's attempt to represent honest feeling honestly. What must be avoided at all costs—what Fried finds in the Rococo, Marshall locates in Shaftesbury's critique of the printed book's address to its reader, and Richardson decries in the novels and romances—is a coy and self-conscious theatricality that panders to the gaze of the beholder. To avoid this theatricality, Pamela deploys the three salient strategies Fried ascribes to absorptive painting. First, according to Fried, Chardin and Greuze imbue their paintings with an aura of innocence by depicting the simple souls of the bourgeois home in states of absorption: reading, drawing, building a card castle, and so on. Similarly, Richardson seeks to charm his reader with the innocence of everyday activity by representing Pamela absorbed in writing to her parents, arranging her bundles of clothes, or chatting with other servants. Second, in the moments of crisis when Pamela defends her body against assault, melodramatic scenes of "virtue in distress" have the dramatic unity, intensity, and intelligibility that Fried demonstrates to be central to Diderot's program for an antitheatrical "narrowing, heightening and abstracting" of the beholding itself (104). And third, by avoiding a theatrical self-conscious address to the reader, Richardson's letter-novels promote what Fried finds in these paintings: the "supreme fiction" of the beholder's absence. This fiction helps achieve a realist effect of immediacy and unselfconsciousness, precisely the qualities Diderot praised with such extravagance in his Eloge à Richardson (1762).

In a cogent revision and extension, David Marshall points out that this antitheatrical strategy requires another kind of theater. Marshall shows that in order to avoid the false theatricality of books, with the "coquetry of authors" in their direct" I-you" address to their reader, Shaftesbury devises new forms of textual theater. Marshall's formulation of this paradox offers a suggestive gloss on Richardson's strategy for curing the bad absorption and false theatricality of novels: "Paradoxically, writing must turn to theater through the dialogue or present itself in the guise of a private text in order to deny its position before its audience of readers . . . Theatricality—the intolerable position of appearing as a spectacle before spectators—calls


for the instatement of theater: the protective play of masks and screens that would deny the view of the spectators it positions and poses for" (Marshall, Figure of Theater , 66–67). In Pamela , authentic self-presentation depends upon masks and screens to project a new persona. Anonymous publication allows Richardson to publish his narrative in the form of naive familiar letters by throwing his voice into the mouth of a young girl.

However, there are built-in liabilities in a strategy of theatrical indirection. When Pamela becomes famous, whether as an object of emulation or as a scandalously false model, her sheer notoriety makes it increasingly difficult to prevent her from becoming a spectacle before spectators. "Pamela" becomes the focal point of the theatrical effect produced by the media event that precipitates her celebrity. Acts of reference, citation, and co-optation confer an involuntary greatness upon this modest young servant. Then, when the anti-pamelists insist upon Pamela's performative ruses—her cunning seduction of the unwary Mr. B. within the narrative or the disingenuous motives of Pamela 's real writer—there is no author there to protect her. The threat this poses to the proper reception of Pamela mandates Richardson's belated appearance as author.

Richardson's Belated Appearance as Author

While the texts of the anti-pamelists disturb the progress of Pamela to its reader, a much greater threat to the novel comes from those on the print market who would honor her with that highest form of flattery—imitation in the form of a sequel. In a letter to his brother-in-law James Leake, Richardson gives an account of his struggle to protect Pamela by preventing the appearance of the first of these sequels, Pamela's Conduct in High Life , published by the bookseller Richard Chandler, and written by his "bookseller's hackney," John Kelly.[22] Richardson's struggle with Chandler and Kelly to shape the public life of Pamela highlights a crucial feature of media culture. Because of the abstract uniformity of the print medium, media-culture commodities do not come stamped with the unique character of an authored work. Instead, they betray a dangerous plasticity. Through a sequel, Richardson's story could be "ravished out of his hands" and continued by another; or his own sequel might be promiscuously merged with the writing of an uninvited collaborator (such as Kelly); or the copyright of a sequel could become the possession of a bookseller (such as Chandler) not of his own choosing. His own Pamela might, through the

[22] Selected Letters , 42–45; this story is recounted in Sale, Samuel Richardson (26–29) and Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson (135–139).


"bookseller's interest and arts" be bound with the false and debased sequel. Finally, Richardson fears that there is no way to stop these debased imitations from multiplying indefinitely, with "still more and more volumes intended possible by them, so long as the town would receive them" (Selected Letters , 44). "Pamela" might acquire all of the monstrous staying power of the undead. In all these ways, Pamela may be given a new shape and meaning retroactively, through the afterlives given her by an irresponsible crowd of imitators.

The response of the "Highlife Men"—as Richardson terms Chandler, Kelly, and their partners—suggests that the media culture of which Pamela is a part is an unenclosed common, where all may graze at will. On this aggressively competitive terrain, property in a hit like Pamela appears transitory and provisional. Richardson had actually encouraged unauthorized sequels in two ways: through anonymous publication, and "through the heroine's promising future." As a seasoned print-media insider, Richardson should not have been surprised that others would contrive to continue a story he had begun. The lucrative advantages of serial publication had been demonstrated in the previous sixty years with the multiple installments of Love Letters , the New Atalantis , and Love in Excess (see chapters 2 and 3). When Robinson Crusoe was a runaway best-seller in 1719, Defoe followed with the Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1919) and the Serious Reflections (1720). The recent revivals of films and television series, such as Star Trek and Star Wars , suggest a law at work in media culture since the early modern period—one that assures not simply that proven hits spawn imitators, but that they will come back to life.

The "Highlife Men" justify their sequel by claiming the freedom of entrepreneurs to meet the desires of a consuming public. Thus Chandler accuses Richardson of being like "the dog in the manger [who] would neither eat [himself] nor let them eat." Selfish as a dog with a bone, Richardson would not only deny his professional colleagues a piece of the action, he would frustrate the understandable curiosity of an enthusiastic public. When Richardson hears that Pamela's Conduct in High Life is nearing publication, he includes a denunciation of it in his May 7, 1741 advertisement for the fourth edition of Pamela . This first appearance of Richardson as "author" comes as a belated reaction to protect Pamela from debasement; in it, "the author thinks it necessary to declare" that the sequel does not have his "consent," and reflects no knowledge of Pamela beyond what can be read in Pamela . Finally, he adds, he is "actually continuing the work himself" (Eaves and Kimpel, Samuel Richardson , 135).

Pamela has by now taken on a life of its own. Nothing can give Richard-


son proprietary control over the sequels to Pamela . Indeed, without centralized censorship and licensing, or the trademark and copyright protection that contemporary law now extends to characters such as Mickey Mouse, there is nothing that guarantees the right Richardson is here trying to claim: to "end his own work when and how he pleased." Every text is open to an "engrafting" that can tap into the body of the original in a fashion that Richardson declares "scandalous." Thus, in order to protect Pamela's future, Richardson finds he has little choice but to enter the market to condemn Pamela's Conduct in High Life in several critical reviews (ibid., 137–138). But more crucially, he promises his own authentic sequel to meet the demand for a continuation of Pamela's story. Richardson is reluctant to continue, in part because he is harassed by other work, and also because "second parts are generally received with prejudice, and it was treating the public too much like a bookseller to pursue a success till they tired out the buyers" (Richardson, Selected Letters , 44). But he must override this principled posture toward the reading public when he sees from samples of Pamela's Conduct in High Life that "all my characters were likely to be debased, and my whole purpose inverted," that "all readers were not judges." So Richardson reverses course and publishes his own sequel: Pamela in her Exalted Condition .

Richardson can only defend this commodity adrift on the open market by presenting himself as its author. To foreclose adversarial readings and patent rip-offs, a responsible sponsoring subject who may speak for the work has to come forward. But how can Richardson assert his possession of an anonymous text without compromising the considerable advantages of anonymous publication? Authorial appropriation comes as a reappropriation of that which is asserted to be, after its errant and vagabond circulation, always already the author's own. Richardson's (re-)possession of Pamela takes different forms. After publishing Pamela in her Exalted Condition , as volumes 3 and 4 of Pamela: Virtue Rewarded , Richardson appends a note that asserts his authority on the grounds of his physical possession of documents: he warns readers against counterfeit versions of Pamela's story, insists that Pamela is not a "fiction" with "imaginary" "characters," and announces that all papers are "in one hand only," as the "assignment of Samuel Richardson, editor of 4 vols. of Pamela: Virtue Rewarded ." When the leading Dublin bookseller, George Faulkner, corrupts one of Richardsoh's workers to get early access to the copy for Pamela in her Exalted Condition , Richardson takes steps to protect another kind of property in his work—its profits. (This is a rehearsal of his later, more fully conceptualized and sustained defense of Sir Charles Grandison , described in the conclusion.)


Pamela in her Exalted Condition exposes a central tension within Richardson's novelistic projects: he consistently manifests a primary ambivalence about providing entertainment to his readers. On the title page, he declares that Pamela was contrived to achieve a careful balance between cultivating "the Principles of VIRTUE and RELIGION . . . at the same time that it agreeably entertains, by a Variety of curious and affecting INCIDENTS." The first sentence of the Editor's Preface also emphasizes this double agenda—"to Divert and Entertain, and at the same time to Instruct, and Improve the Minds of the YOUTH of both Sexes" [italics mine]. In an act that may be motivated by the criticisms of Pamela that surface in the Pamela media event or that may reflect his own reticence about novel writing, Richardson abandons this delicate balancing act by purging his sequel of the conflict and suspense central to Pamela .

In these two further volumes of narrative centered on Pamela's exemplary conduct in high life, Richardson intentionally changes the ratio of entertainment and instruction. He works this change by cutting away all of the adventure and intrigue that had linked Pamela to the novels of amorous intrigue: "But I hate so much the French marvellous and all unnatural machinery, and have so often been disgusted with that sort of management, that I am contended to give up my profit, if I can but instruct. I am very sensible that there cannot, naturally , be the room for plots, stratagems and intrigue in the present volumes as in the first," he wrote to Stephen Duck (ibid., 53). Richardson's caricature of French fiction is used to justify his abandonment of the effort to "divert" his reader. His defense of writing a natural and probable account of Pamela's life as Mrs. B. anticipates nineteenth-century programs for "slice-of-life" realism. However, Richardson's attack on the sources of interest in his own fiction makes him a dour spoilsport at his own entertainment. He uses the very absence of incidents in his sequel to announce his shift in priorities to Dr. Cheyne: "you'll observe that instruction is my main end . . . For I always had it in view, I have the vanity to repeat, to make the story rather useful than diverting ; and if I could perform it in such a manner as should entertain, it was all I aimed at. The cause of Virtue and Religion, was what I wished principally to serve" (54–55). Here, Richardson offers the rationale for the gesture he will repeat in the last volume of Clarissa , as well as in the program of Sir Charles Grandison —a vengeful return of the superego, expressed through the withering repetition of didacticism. Unleashing this didacticism, usually at the end of his novels, allows Richardson to attack the sources of enjoyment within his own fiction.


5 The Pamela Media Event

Preferred Citation: Warner, William B. Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1998 1998.